May 21, 2008


By Senator Mike Crapo

"Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic."


            - General John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief, Grand Army of the Republic, from General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868, which established the first "Memorial Day" to honor those lost in war. 


The history of the United States of America records the ongoing agitation for and defense of human dignity and freedom. In its most extreme, that struggle results in war--once, internally, but more often, externally. American flags, particularly those smartly waving in late May breezes every year, stand as stark reminders of the cost of that freedom--millions of American lives over the past 232 years. In anticipation of the annual holiday often marketed as the beginning of summer, it might be worth asking the question: have we forgotten, or at least relegated to tragic indifference, what Memorial Day really means? Does Memorial Day include a trip to the cemetery on the way to the grocery store, home improvement store, a friend or family member's house? Do we tend the graves of our fallen heroes as General Logan instructed, keeping them free from "vandalism of avarice or neglect?" 


Of course, the question is rhetorical-while many do go visit graves of fallen soldiers or participate in ceremonies or public community events, a growing number of Americans do not. As a nation (especially a nation currently at war), we should take time to honor those who, with their very lives, have turned our history relentlessly toward the beacon of freedom and human dignity and away from the darkness of tyranny and slavery. 


Memorial Day is a time to consider not only our freedom, but what it means to be an American. We are engaged in a lively campaign season-possibly the most engaged we've been in politics as a nation in years. This is entirely possible because of the men and women upon whose graves our Stars and Stripes wave this Memorial Day. We have the freedom to seek education and a career that suits our own gifts and desires. We are free to criticize our government. We have the freedom to worship in a manner of our choosing. We do these things without fear of government reprisal-in fact, not only do we need not fear government reprisal in common expressions of our freedom, but our Constitution encourages us in the exercise thereof. What a great nation we live in; what a precious and priceless gift from our military fallen over more than two centuries. 


One of the profound privileges of my Senate responsibilities and opportunities has been attending Memorial Day services across Idaho. These solemn ceremonies serve to remind me of the cost of my freedom and that of my family. Enumerated in the Constitution and jealously guarded by those who have worn our nation's uniform, our freedom and our liberty remain the standard for the rest of the world. Be patriotic this Memorial Day. Enthusiastically embrace your freedom and unashamedly love and defend our country, the United States of America. The men and women we honor on Memorial Day certainly did. And take time to say a prayer of thanks for these lives and their sacrifice; better yet, stop by their final resting place and thank them in person.