Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine.”
The air was humid and still as I posted the flag in its holder at our home this morning. The tears were running down my cheeks, mixed with a confluence of thoughts as this Memorial Day morning began. A day, and a weekend, where our Nation stops to remember those who gave more—so much more than mere thanks could ever repay.
I remember to this day how angry he was—he was only ten at the time—but my son, Nathan, was beside himself in tears. I don’t remember now what brought us to Cincinnati, but since the Reds were in town hosting the Montreal Expos we added Riverfront Stadium to our growing list of baseball parks visited. As the Star Spangled Banner began to play, everyone in the stands throughout the stadium respectfully rose to sing and honor our Country. All, that is, except the father and his young son seated directly in front of us. I couldn’t hear their conversation, but by their irreverent inattention given the moment, I was certain it wasn’t about the heroic heritage of America.
Distracted by the pair, and sensing the growing anger rising up beside me, I placed my arm over Nathan’s shoulder and attempted to control the idealistic wounded spirit poised to spring to right an obvious affront to all that he had been taught is dear and sacred. As the hymn concluded and the crowd readied for the first pitch, I escorted Nathan from our seats to the quiet of the concession area. I stooped down to talk to him face-to-face. Setting aside my own indignity for what we just witnessed and with all the calmness I could muster, I explained to him that it was because of the very ideals upon which this great land was established, which the rest of us just stood to honor and affirm, that that father and his impressionable son enjoyed the freedom to act with the disrespect they displayed.
Not fully understanding, but knowing he could always trust me for the truth, Nathan settled down a bit, but never forgot the lesson of that moment.
And on this Memorial Day, I pray that we also will never forget, not what that man and boy did, but that we never forget what those we honor today did for you and for me and this great Nation. I pray that we never forget those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we might live with the freedoms we still enjoy today.
Beginning in 1866 with the placing of flowers on the graves of some of our Civil War veterans, Memorial Day has been highlighted since the dedication in 1921 of The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (now called The Tomb of the Unknowns) in Arlington National Cemetery, by the placing of a wreath at the Tomb, usually by the President. The Tomb always remains under the watchful eye of an elite unit of the “Old Guard” of the Third United States Infantry, called the Tomb Guard, which maintains an hour by hour vigil every day of the year at that hallowed site. The inscription: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God”, can be found on the Tomb containing the remains of a soldier from World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
And it reminds us that on days like today, we as a Nation need to remember the valiant men and women who stood in the gap for us in World War I and World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the war in the Persian Gulf, and now in the Mideast, and so many others. Heroes who came back from those wars in pieces, in boxes, on stretchers, and crutches, forever scared and crippled, and those whose bodies lie beneath row after row after row of white crosses at the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery and thousands of cemeteries across this Country and world—heroes who fought and died that you and I might live and sit here today in freedom.
They paid the price for us.
And on days like today, we need to be reminded of that heritage. And we see what’s happening in various parts of our Country, with its sense of lostness and lack of direction, with its loss of pride in our heritage, its loss of faith in God—and we wonder whether it was worth it to give up their tomorrows so that we could live in freedom today.
And on days like today, those of us who remain must make the answer: “Yes it was worth it, and we shall never forget the price you paid for us.” For you see, liberty may be a heritage, as that disrespectful man and boy in Cincinnati enjoyed, but it is never a gift. The liberty we enjoy today is not a gift—it has been paid for at great price. And America will stand as a place of liberty and equality, justice and freedom, only as long as there are men and women, children and young people—generation after generation—who are willing to pay the price and return to the Lord and trust the Lord upon Whom this great land was established, and to stand up for America.
Today, we must remember that we can never go on without reaching back and holding on to the lives, sacrifices and memories of those who have gone before us and to the ideals and values of this great land for which they gave their last breath and heartbeat.
In their honor, and with the hope that we will live as they did, may God continue to Bless the United States of America, and each of you and your families on this Memorial Day.
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2010. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.