May 28, 2012

Honoring The Legacy Of Great Americans

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The modern observance of Memorial Day grew from Civil War-era community observances, in which friends and families gathered to remember those lost in the war.  Over time, as this local practice caught on, it became known as Decoration Day.  Later, honoring the fallen of all the nation's wars, it became Memorial Day.  It has been, in the truest sense of the word, a day of remembrance born at the grassroots level.

Reminders of what Memorial Day is about are all over the world.  In Normandy, France, there is an American Cemetery for the brave young men who were killed during the Normandy landings.  There are similar cemeteries in England, Italy, the Philippines and Korea.  At Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., there are the rows of white markers, each a stark reminder of the ultimate price some of our fellow Americans paid to preserve our freedom and liberty.

But, as we consider the scope of their service, we also must remember that all of these lovingly maintained headstones are memorials to men and women like us.  They had wives, husbands and children waiting at home.  There were anxious parents praying for their safe return.  They had hopes, dreams and aspirations.  Unfortunately, many of these were never to be realized.  In what is surely the greatest sacrifice that any person can make for another, they laid down their lives far from home, so that we could be safe from harm.

This willingness to put the needs of our country before our own has a long tradition in Idaho.  Many of the early pioneers who settled in Idaho, crossing the plains in covered wagons were veterans of the Civil War looking for opportunity beyond the settled horizon.  During the Spanish-American War, Idaho formed the 1 st Idaho Infantry that fought in the Philippines.  All of these soldiers were volunteers.   In the decades to follow, Idahoans have served courageously, including in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq, and in other regions throughout the world.  

On this Memorial Day, with all of the picnics, public events and parades, we should also take time to reflect on what this day means to us.  Yes, it is a day to honor the service of brave Americans.  We can never forget that.  But, there is another way we can honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.  We could also take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to the very principles of freedom and liberty that our fellow citizens fought and died to protect.  Of all the ways we can honor their great legacy, this may be the most fitting.

# # #

Word Count:  439