Lest We Forget
Sometime today pause for just a moment to remember that Freedom isn’t Free and that the simple pleasures we enjoy and take for granted every day, were paid for with a great price. Many spent countless days in harm’s way, and as Lincoln reminds us, some gave “..the last full measure of devotion,..” so that we might be free and live our lives with dignity and respect in the greatest Republic the world has yet known.
The Memorial Day holiday grew and developed after the US Civil War; however, its true sentiment and, the title of of this article, is taken from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave the best known, most quoted, and, undoubtedly, one of the most moving battlefield tributes ever written.
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.
In 1868 an organization of Union veterans first marked the holiday as Decoration Day and urged people to decorate the graves of the war’s dead with flowers. There was a large ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery; but the idea caught on and there were ceremonies and private moments across the country. The wounds from that conflict still being very raw, there were separate services and observances for the southern war dead as well. The holiday grew and by the end of the nineteenth century was celebrated widely and officially recognized by many state legislatures. After World War I, it was expanded to honor the fallen of all wars; but, it was not until 1971 that it became an official federal holiday and moved from May 30th to the last Monday in May.
So enjoy your holiday, but consider stopping by a Veterans’ cemetery, decorating a grave marker for family member, family friend, or one of the countless heroes remembered only by God at this point, instructing a child on why we have this day off, or just taking a moment to be very, very grateful.
May God Bless America and all that call her home.
See ya ’round the mountains,