A soldier, it is said, fights not because he hates who is in front of him, but because he loves who is behind him. I think that’s what it all comes down to. Those we commemorate on Memorial Day fought for mothers and fathers. For sisters and brothers. For sons, daughters, comrades, and all others they held dear.
They fought for our liberty and land, too, because they knew America is worth fighting for. And for the last 150 years, we have given them the honor they so richly deserve.
On May 30, 1868, future president James A. Garfield spoke at Arlington Cemetery for the first national commemoration of what was then known as Decoration Day, and his words resonate to this day: “We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”
We now live in an era marked by political division and social strife. Love of country is considered old-fashioned by some. So too are patriotism and virtue.
But those who feel that way forget the liberty they enjoy to express such sentiments was won by patriots who felt very differently. And it is safeguarded today by service members who do so, too.
Those brave men and women preserve the freedom we sometimes forget to appreciate. They do it for the love of their family, friends, and community. But they also do it for their devotion to each of us and the nation of which we are all a part.
Their sacrifice and strength is what America has honored for a century and a half. And it is that which gives so much meaning to this Memorial Day.