Statistically, we're far more likely to be killed in a car accident than we are a plane crash. Yet, many of us tremble in fear at the thought of flying. Most of us drive daily, and yet when we turn the key in the ignition, we're not thinking that "today I may be killed while driving my car." It would be difficult to complete the task at hand if we worried or obsessed over our safety. We simply drive, and do what comes natural, and most of the time, we return home at the end of the day, and go through the same routine tomorrow and the next day.
I would imagine that a soldier serving in a hot zone is a little more cognizant of his (or her) mortality when he goes about the tasks of his day. I would think that a heavy measure of dread and trepidation accompanies a soldier as he gears up for another day of battle. But I'm sure in the back of his mind, he never really thinks that today will be the day that he will die. To obsess over it would not only put himself in danger, but his comrades as well. So, like a driver behind the wheel, the soldier does what he has been trained to do, and instinct kicks in.
I've never really thought about the actual number of soldiers who have died in battle. I've seen photos of Arlington, and American cemetaries on foriegn lands, and it always overwhelms me. White crosses as far as the eye can see. Each cross representing a life cut short. Ive heard it quoted that the numbers of the known (American) dead from the wars - around 1.3 million, since the Revolutionary War. Many of us know families who have experienced first-hand the loss of someone they love on a battlefield far, far away. We've watched videos of funeral processions through towns where people lined the streets to pay their respects. We've wept over people we've never met who were willing to lay down their lives... men and women who "gave the last full measure of devotion", to ensure our liberty and freedom.
There are those who vehemently oppose military action/wars. There will always be controversy over some of the engagements in which we've been involved. Memorial Day, in my opinion, is not the time for arguing over the Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative opinion of whether or not we should be there in the first place. It is about honoring the men and women who have given all. Instead of staying home and playing with their children, tending to their families, working in a job making far more than soldier's wages, they died far away from the ones they love, often in the arms of their fellow soldiers.
I am unaware of any of my own family members who have perished while serving our country, but many of the men in my family have served, including my father, my brother, and all of my uncles. Army, Navy and Air Force. I am so thankful for their service, and thankful they returned home safely to us.
There's a family heirloom that sits in my living room. It's a hand-crafted blanket chest that's in the neighborhood of 350 years old. Inside this chest is a little "secret compartment". When my grandmother inherited it, there were some items inside the compartment. Among the items were some very brittle, faded letters penned by one of my ancestors from the battlefield. In the Civil War. He wrote home to his mother about "hiding in the ditch from the damn Yankees", about drinking bootleg whiskey that someone had obtained. Of his love for his family. Amazing letters. The story goes that the soldier's mother received word that he had been injured in battle. Though she was weak from having given birth a few weeks earlier and nearly hemorrhaging to death, she insisted that she be taken to the hospital to see her son. She and the baby were packed in the back of a wagon, and they traveled many miles so that she could be with her son. After days of travel, they finally reached the hospital, where she learned that her son, her brave young son, had died shortly before her arrival. He gave the last full measure of his devotion. North or South? Doesn't matter. He was an American, and gave his life for a cause in which he believed. I'd venture to say, that at some point in history, every family has been impacted by this supreme sacrifice.
Our nation today is facing challenges like never before. Over the years our government has become the epitome of Big Brother, and many of the actions of our leaders do little to honor the intentions of the men and women who got off the boats and founded our country those many years ago. It makes me incredibly sad to see the state of our nation, especially knowing the high price that has been paid.
Freedom is not free.
All gave some. Some gave all.
I hope there is a special place in heaven for the men and women who gave all.
May there always be a special place in our hearts for them, and may we never forget.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us 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 the 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. ~Abraham Lincoln
~Originally posted Memorial Day 2010