Rev. Mark H. Creech
"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave," said Elmer Davis, the director of the United States Office of War Information during World War II.
Memorial Day is about paying tribute to the bravest of the brave, our fallen heroes of wartime. That this nation fought four major wars before the idea of a Memorial Day became a reality is an indictment of our propensity to forget unappreciatively and the need to be ever vigilant never to do so.
Memorial Day ceremonies and celebrations should inspire us to fully appreciate what we have in times of peace and how our predecessors were willing to give so much to protect our great heritage.
"War is hell," said William Tecumseh Sherman, the famed General of the Union Army during the conflict between the states. Sherman's words shake us out of thinking of war merely in philosophical terms. Though often necessary, its reality is nightmarish agony, anguish, misery, and the epitome of suffering. It's a gruesome battle of blood and guts for survival.
Stephen Crane's "The Red Badge of Courage" describes a young soldier's perspective in the heat of battle. Here are a few selections from that great novel believed to be based on the Civil War battle at Chancellorsville and accounts from interviewed veterans of the 124th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment:
Crane's words don't even begin to address the horrors of modern warfare. One might even deem them seemingly mild in comparison. Yet, I think they do fundamentally express something of the dreadful experience of so many – many who gave that last full measure of devotion to secure our liberties and the hope of freedom around the world.
General James A. Garfield, who would later become one of our martyred Presidents, spoke at the first Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery. On that day, May 30, 1868, Garfield said, "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 the love of country, they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and virtue."
On Memorial Day, we remember.© Rev. Mark H. Creech
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