Memorial Day message should never get old

Published 9:25 am Friday, May 24, 2024

Monday is Memorial Day and, as always, most of us will attempt to strike a balance between enjoying a day off with family and remembering the solemn reason the holiday exists: to honor the brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

I know this isn’t the first time you’ve read this column. It’s been written thousands of times year after year as a reminder to not get lost in cookouts, beach days and other holiday fun without remembering the staggering loss that made the holiday a necessity in our country. 

I could throw statistics and numbers at you, and sure, that goes a long way toward illustrating my point that Memorial Day was necessitated by a heartbreaking amount of American blood that was shed all over the world. But numbers don’t fully tell the story, nor does any past experience of my own. The loss of a soldier is not unlike cancer, in that it has affected each of us – directly or indirectly. Unlike a death from a disease, though, the loss of these American soldiers isn’t something we simply mourn; it’s something we also celebrate and memorialize with, at least for me, a reverence for something I don’t think I’ll ever fully comprehend.

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Each year, as Memorial Day approaches, we see the slogans, for lack of a better term. “All gave some. Some gave all,” for example, floods our social media feeds and there is not a single thing in the world wrong with that. For me, though, I always think about the Bible verse John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

If you really stop and think about that, what it really means, it’s a simple declaration that carries an incredible amount of weight. To know what you are doing may be your final act on this earth and to do it anyway, that’s an act of bravery I may never fully grasp unless one of my children is ever in danger. I pray I never understand it. Couple that with the fact that these soldiers weren’t just laying down their lives for their friends, but for an entire country of people, most of whom they had never met. Even more astonishing, these men and women – many of whom were arguably still kids – made these sacrifices for an ideal; they made it to preserve this great experiment we call America that was begun hundreds of years ago by other men and women sacrificing everything for what they believed in. 

Even in 1776, they knew what they were doing wouldn’t be enough to preserve what they were creating. They knew it would require a never-ending defense against tyranny, here and abroad.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete idealist. I know there are problems. I’m aware. But, we’re not here to talk about all of the things that have gone wrong today. Instead, we’re here to honor the lives lost in the pursuit of what is very, very right. Even when we do a terrible job of representing it to the world, I still think most Americans believe in what this country stands for; in the ideals we all grew up being taught. Sometimes, it’s easy to look around at our often-divided, perpetually polarized country and wonder where it all went wrong. But, as has also been pointed out time and again, we wouldn’t have the freedom to argue over any of it without the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.

So, yes. I’m delivering yet another Memorial Day reminder to not forget why you are able to enjoy your holiday fun Monday. But, given what we’ve lost in order to need a Memorial Day at all, I think the message bears repeating.

Blake Bell is the general manager and executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at