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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Review & Opinion

Remembering Those Who Died For Our Freedoms

Over many years Memorial Day has become tangled with the unofficial opening of summer. It has become a day of remembrance as well as a day of backyard barbecues and parades.

But in these troubled times, when so much of the world is experiencing conflict and death, it is useful for us to carve out time from celebrations to see this day as one in which we should contemplate the cost of our freedoms, the cost in the lives of men and women who, to use Lincoln’s famous words, “gave the last full measure of devotion.”

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These are dangerous times. The United States has very real enemies. We may well have to again call on young men and women to defend our freedoms.

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This year Memorial Day arrives while the world is at war in many locations. The Russian “military operation” of February 2022 is now in its third year. The Israeli conflict in Gaza is eight months old and continues. Civil wars are ongoing in many parts of the world. Border disputes between India and Pakistan and building tensions between China and Taiwan are other examples of a long list of world hot spots.

While the United States is not presently a direct combatant in these disputes, we are only once removed in many of them. Events could embroil us in conflicts which would once again place our service men and women in harm’s way.

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, a day to recognize the commitment of men and women who gave their lives to provide us with the freedoms we often take for granted.

This is the day that calls our attention to those who served but did not come home. It is appropriate and our recognition of their sacrifice is important. Yet flags at military cemeteries, taps played at Arlington and speeches by public officials may not be the best way to honor the fallen.

Perhaps a better way is to honor that for which they fell.

We honor those who fought and died for our freedoms when we take our responsibilities as citizens seriously. We offer thanks to those who are no longer here to receive them when we participate in our own governance, when we demand transparency from those we elect to office, and when we honor the principles that allow a nation of over 320 million to exist as a functioning democracy.

The greatest disservice we can do to those who died protecting our way of life is to lose the battle for that way of life on the home front, lose it because we lacked vigilance, because we lost our ability to listen to those with whom we may disagree, or because we just were too busy with other things. We best pay our respects to the fallen as a nation when we embrace the principles of self-governance, tolerance and compromise that are the underpinning of any government by the people.

These are dangerous times. The United States has very real enemies. We may well have to again call on young men and women to defend our freedoms. Some of them may have to make the same sacrifice we honor on this Memorial Day. But fewer of them will be called upon for the ultimate sacrifice if we remain strong in the internal defense of our freedoms.

What has made America the greatest country in the world is not just our industry, our military and our resources. It is our example to the world that “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

In the words of Franklin Roosevelt, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”

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From the Bible:  “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” — Galatians 5:13

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