Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo
When you go home
Tell them for us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today
-Message chiseled outside cemetery at Iwo Jima, from Flags of our Fathers, by James Bradley
Memorial Day is one of our most meaningful holidays. It is a day for honoring and remembering those who have died in America's many battles to ensure security and freedom for its citizens. For those who have lost loved ones in this ongoing fight, it is possibly one of the hardest holidays to endure. But for all Americans, who live every day under the freedom provided by those lives lost, it can be one of the easiest to commemorate. What Memorial Day requires is for us to show our gratitude---and to remember.
Our soldiers fight to defend liberty in places where people rarely experience the freedoms of speech, religion, and association that we so often take for granted here at home. In two world wars, American soldiers liberated Europe and asked only for land enough to bury those who wouldn't be going home. The sacrifice made by America's fallen warriors and by the families who never see them return is what we commemorate on Memorial Day.
Too often, Memorial Day's meaning gets lost amid picnics for a day off merely to celebrate the beginning of summer. But it is appropriate that we should take the day off to exercise our freedom by enjoying time with family and friends. It is a freedom won by those whom this holiday honors.
Memorial Day was borne out of a desire to honor those who died in the Civil War. In 1868, General John A. Logan established May 30 th as Decoration Day. In General Order No. 11, he wrote, "Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and to assist those whom they have left among us as a sacred charge upon the nation's gratitude---the soldier's widow and orphan." General Order No. 11 is well worth reading on Memorial Day. You can read it in full at http://crapo.senate.gov .
Decoration Day has become Memorial Day, and we now observe it on the last Monday in May. To properly remember on Memorial Day is to do what General Logan proposed. We should visit our local cemeteries to place flowers and flags over military graves and do something to help the families of our fallen heroes. We should fly our flags at half-staff until noon and observe the congressionally appointed hours of 11:00 a.m. as a time to unite in prayer and 3:00 p.m. for the National Moment of Remembrance.
To properly remember on Memorial Day is also to pass on our memory to our children. It is to fill them with a sense of respect and reverence for the greatness of America and the meaning of Memorial Day. It is to teach them what freedom is, how it was gained, and how to live a life worthy of the lives lost to sustain it.
Freedom surrounds us every day and every moment in America. Without knowing any other way of life, we sometimes fail to appreciate what we have. The point made in the poem quoted above, from the cemetery at Iwo Jima, should always be in our thoughts. On Memorial Day, especially, it should be foremost on our minds. We owe a debt that can never be repaid---except by remembering.
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