May 24, 2006

THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

Guest opinion by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, daredall, and died.-Inscription at Arlington National CemeteryIs the car packed? Someone taking care of the animals? Reservations made? Is the salad finished? Kids ready? Is there charcoal for the grill? Enough soda, chips and dip? These questions may sound familiar this time of year as we celebrate the Memorial Day holiday, but in the rush of preparing for a long weekend, a barbecue or a relaxing day outdoors, we sometimes forget the â??reason for the season.â?? Without the sacrifice of over 650,000 Americans in the course of our military history, a very different, frightening world may have emerged, one that would have made these mundane (and sometimes frantic) details meaningless. We donâ??t need to look any farther than the evening news or newspaper for a reminder.In recent years, Memorial Day has been more present in our minds because of the war in the Middle East. The loss of brave men and women over the past four years has been an experience of national mourning not felt since the days of the Vietnam War. Our notions of freedom have been discussed and discovered to be, not surprisingly, complex and varied, reflecting our innate individuality. Regardless of our feelings about the time and place of freedomâ??s defense, American men and women who wear our military uniform live to defend this freedom.While Memorial Day has come to represent a long weekend of rest, itâ??s regrettable that fewer people participate in Memorial Day activities than in years past. Memorial Day was established in 1868 to honor and remember those who gave their lives in service to our nation. All states set aside this day to honor the war fallen after World War I. Some ways to celebrate Memorial Day include:â?¢visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes; â?¢visiting memorials; â?¢flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon; â?¢flying the 'POW/MIA Flag' as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act); â?¢participating in a "National Moment of Remembrance": at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day;â?¢renewing a pledge to aid widows, widowers, and orphans of our fallen dead, and aid disabled veterans. Memorial Day, appropriately, is a time to gather with family and friends. In doing so, we celebrate our freedom. Itâ??s important to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Many families will encounter Memorial Day this year with a helpless, empty void in their hearts, a place once filled with a loved one. Pray for their comfort, strength and healing as you cherish this time with your own family and friends. IN FLANDERS FIELDSIn Flanders fields the poppies blowBetween the crosses row on row,That mark our place; and in the skyThe larks, still bravely singing, flyScarce heard amid the guns below.We are the Dead. Short days agoWe lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,Loved and were loved, and now we lieIn Flanders fields.Take up your quarrel with the foe;To you from failing hands we throwThe Torch; be yours to hold it high.If ye break faith with us who dieWe shall not sleep, though poppies growIn Flanders fields.Lt. Col. John McCrae (1872-1918)Canadian poet and military physicianWORD COUNT: 592