A Memorial Day Truism: Freedom Isn’t Free

For the first time in 20 years — that’s an entire generation — America’s military men and women are not fighting a war on foreign soil.

The withdrawal of our remaining troops from Afghanistan last August brought to an end a conflict that had long-outlasted its purpose, which initially was meant to destroy the al-Quaeda terrorist organization that was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, but which somehow morphed into a long-term, nation-building undertaking.

Although we technically are at peace, the world stage feels anything but peaceful. Totalitarian adversaries either are wreaking havoc (Russia in Ukraine) or threatening to do so (No. Korea and China).

If the lessons of the past and present teach us anything, it is that we cannot take our freedom for granted.

The same troops who are delivering baby formula today could be called upon to engage in a far different and more dangerous mission at any moment.

This realization made us think back to the roots of Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day,  with the proclamation by Gen. Logan on May 5, 1868, in which he declared:

“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”

That in turn got us to thinking of what rates as the greatest testament to the memory of those brave Americans who made the Supreme Sacrifice, the Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln, in order to preserve our democratic way of life:

“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.”

We hope our readers appreciate the eternal truths of Lincoln’s sentiments, which are as relevant today as they have been since the founding of our nation.

We wish all of our readers a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.

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