Remembering Our Fallen: The Legacy of Memorial Day

May 29, 2023

Did you know that in the year 2000, Congress passed a law requiring all Americans to pause for a moment of silence at 3 PM local time on the Monday of Memorial Day weekend? You might remember the episode of Andy Griffith where Barney gives Gomer a ticket for making an illegal U-turn, and later Gomer catches Barney doing the same thing, yelling “Citizens arrest! Citizens Arrest!” Well, this Memorial Day, if anyone around me is talking at that moment, I plan to echo Gomer: “Citizens arrest! Citizens arrest!” We’ll see how that turns out.

My first encounter with this holiday came when my parents loaded my brothers and me into the station wagon and drove us to a cemetery. Mom put flowers on her mother’s grave. She cried. There was no barbecue. At the time, it seemed to me a dull and somber holiday.

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day was designated to honor those who had perished in the Civil War. Today, it officially recognizes all the American soldiers who have fallen in war. The only relative I lost in war was my dad’s brother Bill. Named after my grandfather, Uncle Bill was reportedly killed on D-Day while parachuting into Europe. His commanding officer wrote that he was shot down in the air before he even hit the ground.

He wasn’t alone. Over 13,000 courageous men were dropped onto Normandy that day. Uncle Bill was among the thousand-plus who were killed, being sitting ducks for German soldiers. Over 2,500 were wounded and, shockingly, almost 4,500 went missing. There was considerable confusion, some were dropped in the wrong areas, and some simply floated away due to the winds. Young Americans were spread over Europe that day, and many, like Uncle Bill, never returned home.

Since the American Revolution in 1775, about 2,000,000 American soldiers have died defending freedom. With such a history, is it any wonder that we are such an independent lot? Americans have always been willing to die for freedom – ours and virtually anyone else’s.

According to the dictionary, “freedom” is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Tell an American they can’t do, say, or even think something, and you’re likely to start a conflict. Likewise, telling us we must do something can easily spark a similar reaction. Learning to cooperate as a society while simultaneously preserving freedom is quite the balancing act. It takes considerable maturity. Especially when someone’s opinion or belief is contrary to your own. The Golden Rule advises us to treat others as we would want to be treated. We don’t have to agree, but we should respect and protect the right to disagree. I believe we find our times happier when we learn to disagree agreeably.

Freedom is divine. When God created our species, He granted us free will. He provided us with a model to live by in the life of Jesus, but He permits us to make our own choices. Hence, when people question why bad things happen, it’s usually the result of poor choices. Regrettably, it is a sad fact of life that some people suffer due to the ill-considered decisions of others. God could have built us with a programmed response to everything, so we had no choice but to be good to each other and honor Him. But then, I don’t think we would be people, just programmed robots in skin. Despite all the pain, suffering, and discomfort endured from our own and others’ bad choices, I believe

freedom is the better choice.

The next time you get into a heated discussion with a friend or relative about politics, I hope you will remember this story. Pause, look at your counterpart, smile, and say, “Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a country where we can disagree, and neither one of us has to worry about getting beaten up, silenced, fined, or arrested for our opinion?” Then tell them you love them and change the subject.

As a final note, over half of our soldiers died on foreign soil. We fought the American Revolution against England for our own freedom. We fought the Civil War to ensure freedom for all of our citizens, and we fought the Mexican War in 1845 for Texas. Although I harbor no doubt that Texas or any other state could have withstood Mexico or any other country’s domination, thanks to that war, we can proudly claim Texas as our own. All I can say about that is: Texas, you were worth it!

By the way, I always appreciate it when you share my posts.)”

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