Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain; for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”

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!

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

Katharine Lee Bates (Lyrics) and Samuel Ward (Melody)

Only in America.

I just hung up with my younger Granddaughter, Ellie Kate, after she called to thank me for my service in the United States Air Force.

As Ellie did, today is a day we pause to honor those who served and, more particularly, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives so we might live in freedom today, and perhaps, just perhaps, pause to remember them today.

Memorial Day. Only in America.

I’ve never understood the lack of respect shown by some of the citizens of this great Nation for those who have sacrificed it all throughout our history, so that we—and they—might live in freedom today. Sadly, you see it among the players on basketball, football and baseball teams, standing slovenly on the court or field with their hands at their side, with no apparent concern or respect for what is occurring during the pregame playing of the National Anthem. And fans watch their display of disrespect for our Nation and for those who have sacrificed for them and for this great land. And those same fans hold those same players and coaches in high regard. Sad.

And you’ll see it in the stands of those same sporting events and at other occasions, with hats un-removed during the playing of our National Anthem. Irreverent lives who are better because someone, somewhere gave his or her life so they could be there—showing inattention and disregard to the heroic heritage of America. What is even sadder still is that it seems to have moved beyond simply that they have forgotten—to an utter lack of caring and disrespect.

And on this Memorial Day, I pray that we also will never forget—not the disrespect shown by so many throughout the course of our history and today—but that we never forget the lives of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that they might do so. Beginning in 1866 with the placing of some flowers on the graves of some of our Civil War veterans, Memorial Day has been highlighted since the dedication in 1911 of The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, by the President’s placing of a wreath at the Tomb 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, regardless of the conditions, 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 on days like today, I pray we never forget the noble, stirring words of Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of the National Soldiers’ Memorial in Gettysburg, when from the back of a paper bag he read:

It is rather for us the living to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

(Emphasis added)

So many, for so long, have paid the price for us, beginning at Bunker Hill and Lexington and Concord and down through Valley Forge. They made the first payment for us. And that payment has been kept up-to-date through the Argonne Forest, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Puson and Pork Chop Hill, and across a thousand hills in Southeast Asia, the sands of the Persian Gulf., Iraq and Afghanistan. They paid the price for us.

And on days like today, we need to be reminded of that heritage. Some never came back, and others came back on stretchers and on crutches and in wheelchairs, while still others were spit upon and ridiculed. And they see what’s happening in various parts of our Country—with its sense of lost ness and lack of direction, its loss of pride in our heritage, its loss of vision of what this Nation was meant to be, its loss of faith in God—and they’re asking whether it was worth it to give up their tomorrows so that we could live in freedom today. Was it worth it to storm Tarawa and lose a leg at Tarawa? Was it worth it to storm Iwo Jima, or fight in Vietnam and lose a buddy there? Was it worth it to fight in blinding sand storms, and in the mountains, to liberate a people from fear, mutilation and death?

And on days like today, we must make the answer:

Yes by God it was worth it, and we shall never forget the price you paid for us.”

For you see, liberty may be a heritage you and I enjoy, and that those disrespectful teams and fans watching them from the stands enjoy—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, young people and children—generation after generation—who are willing to pay the price, trust the Lord upon whom this great land was established, and to stand up for America.

May God continue to bless the United States of America, as we remember in humble reverence and respect, on this Memorial Day, those who have stood in the gap for us so that we might live in freedom today.

In His Name—Scott

Copyright 2012. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.