If we do not remember those who gave their lives to preserve our way of life, we are likely to lose that way of life by the worst possible means – the accident of thinking things had to be the way they are and not some other way. This lesson is not buried in some dusty tome; our grandparents know better. How could we forget?
Some of us understand that things are the way they are because some soldiers were – and are – so committed to liberty as to give their own lives in its defense. Sadly, the vast majority of us do not seem committed to remember this debt.
There is encouragement for this amnesia. We have many enemies, and putative friends, who desire that we forget past courage and honor. They desire that the remembrance of the justice of the causes of the past should slip away. They view even their own immediate ancestors – who rose to meet challenges of personal and cultural annihilation – as quaint throwbacks to an unenlightened age.
These enemies and self-declared friends are wrong. We must reject their idea that our enemies are simply people we haven’t yet had the intelligence to recognize as our moral equivalents.
Remember Ypres, Belleau Wood and Dieppe. Do not forget Iwo Jima or The Bulge or the Chosen Reservoir or Khe Sanh.
And Khe Sanh is a good example of how an agenda of defeat twists logic: At Khe Sanh 205 Americans were killed, while the North Vietnamese lost between ten and fifteen thousand. The Western press portrayed Khe San as a defeat. Like Tet. Do not forget Tet, where Walter Cronkite surrendered, on our behalf, following our resounding victory.
Our enemies had these “victories” because, while our soldiers were annihiliating them, we lost heart. We should certainly remember that.
What we remember will affect what we think. The ritual denigration of the US military continues to affect Associated Press headlines 40 years after Tet, as observed by TOC.
If Memorial Day is not an event that counters this defeatism, where will we find the will to win the war against Islamofascism? Respect for those who gave their lives on our behalf LAST WEEK is as necessary as respect for those who died in the Civil War and WWI and WWII and Korea and Viet Nam.
Without our continuing consciousness of their effort, those who have died and those who die tomorrow on behalf of our present freedom, are literally dust. You must not let that happen. They died for their homes and families and friends, and for a rule of law and traditions they cherished and a future they believed in; they died for you.
This truth was not a question until latter half of the 20th Century.
Memorial Day grew from the carnage of the Civil War. Until after WWI it honored only those who had died in the Civil War.
In 1918 Moina Belle Michael read a Canadian Army doctor’s poem, In Flanders Fields, written about the horrors he saw in the Ypres salient.
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
This inspired Michael to write her own poem,We Shall Keep the Faith
We Shall Keep the Faith
by Moina Michael, November 1918
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
Moina Michael went on to campaign for the poppy as a national symbol of gratitude to those who had died in the war. She started the tradition of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.
I have never had the opportunity to make a donation for a poppy in the United States, but I have kept one I contributed a few dollars for in Canada, where the Royal Canadian Legion offers them near Remembrance Day – November 11th. Memorial Day is close in spirit to Remembrance Day.
The Royal Canadian Legion has some links to music appropriate to remembrance. here’s one worth a listen on Memorial Day: Terry Kelly comments on some anonymous individual who apparently couldn’t observe 2 minutes of silence on the 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – A Pittance of Time.
Whether in May or November, it seems appropriate on a day of gratitude to fallen warriors.