I drove up to the store and met a friend for lunch the other day. When I arrived at the restaurant I had several items to choose from when making my decision for what I’d like to have for lunch: four different types of bread; lettuce or tomato, or both; banana peppers or jalapenos; American, Swiss or pepper Jack cheese; ham, turkey, roast beef or a combination of meats; did I want it heated or I could have it cold…and that’s just the start of it. Not once did anyone say I had to limit my choices or that I couldn’t have whatever I wanted from what seemed like unlimited choices.
Afterwards, I ran into the store and once again I was met with choices. So many choices and no limit to what I wanted, just walk through the store, pick it out and go to the register and pay for it. I walked back to the car that I handpicked, as the radio was playing a station I had selected. So much freedom! And yet so much taken for granted.
If you’re like me you just go about your business and don’t think about things like this. The freedom to come and go, buy what we’d like, live where we want, associate with whomever we care to…I’m sure that you can probably begin to see where I’m going with this.
Today we celebrate Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember and honor men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Many see today as the official start to summer. There will be parades, family gatherings, pools will be open and the barbeque will be fired up, and while those thing are all good, we should not forget what today is really all about…sacrifice. For us to enjoy the freedom we have, there was a sacrifice made by someone. Our freedom has been paid in full by those who gave their lives in the ultimate pursuit and defense of it.
My extended family has a strong heritage within the military, having ascended to high ranks within their respective branch of service. Like many who serve, or have served and live to tell about it, they will remind all of us that today isn’t a recognition of service but a day of remembrance of those who served and never made it home. Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly addressed the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis in November, 2010 having just four days before lost his son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, who stepped on a mine while leading a platoon in Afghanistan. He said of the men and women who were serving and those lost in Iraq:
“Like those who went before them in uniform, we owe them everything. We owe them our safety. We owe them our prosperity. We owe them our freedom. We owe them our lives. Any one of them could have done something more self-serving with their lives as the vast majority of their age group elected to do after high school and college, but no, they chose to serve knowing full well a brutal war was in their future. They did not avoid the basic and cherished responsibility of a citizen — the defense of country — they welcomed it. They are the very best this country produces, and have put every one of us ahead of themselves. All are heroes for simply stepping forward, and we as a people owe a debt we can never fully pay. Their legacy will be of selfless valor, the country we live in, the way we live our lives, and the freedoms the rest of their countrymen take for granted.”
I think Lt. Gen. Kelly’s words sum it up pretty well. So as we enjoy our day by the pool, with a burger or hotdog and a drink of our choice, let us not forget to take a moment to honor and remember those who gave their lives in defense of our freedom.