Memorial Day is a day that we cannot overlook, but one that needs to stay in context. I think about my wedding anniversary when I think of special days. It is true that every December 19, I make an extra effort to recognize the patience and longsuffering of my wife, but I do not live the other 364 days as if I am not married.
Same with Memorial Day: we take a day to pause and remember the sacrifices of those who died to secure our freedom in the United States. We should not, however, act like these men and women did not sacrifice for the rest of our days as well. Please remember to stop and consider the lives given for your freedom today, and then live cognizant of the fact that our simple lives in this country were bought at a price.
I think of two images that haunt me especially during Memorial Day. The first is the picture of Arlington National Cemetery (and other National Cemeteries I’ve seen). The rows and rows of headstones, marking the loss of life in the name of freedom. The cost of war is never truly counted in dollars or materiel. It’s counted in those names.
The other comes from the end of episode 3 of the HBO series Band of Brothers. I can’t find a clear YouTube link to embed it, but as the men of the 101st Airborne are getting ready to ship out from England after D-Day to rebase into France. One of the unit’s NCOs goes to pick up his laundry, and the lady that has been doing laundry for the men of the unit asks him to help her with a few others…and the camera pans out to show the stacks of uniforms, each representing men who had died in the previous 30 days.
Mix that with the reality that the ladies in the laundry are likely alone in the countryside, either as widows or simply waiting to see if they will be.
It haunts me in my safety, in my security.
It is s terrible price to pay, and we must never forget it. To those of you who know Memorial Day because it reminds you of the sacrifice you have given in your sons and daughters, husbands and wives, we know this is hard. We do not know how hard, and we do not know how to say it. We are grateful in ways we can never express.