Today, all across the United States of America, we take time to honor our fallen soldiers.
We honor them because they chose to defend us, and they died in that defense. We honor them because they chose to serve, even if it was unpopular or dangerous. We honor them because their blood purchased our freedom.
Poets, philosophers and journalists often talk about the price of war, but only those who have served really understand the toll military service can take on a soldier and his or her family. Too many soldiers’ families know the true price of war firsthand.
Memorial Day is a chance to honor a group of citizens that is often turned into just another series of statistics by our modern society. In a sense, we have forgotten their names. This is a great departure from human history.
The ancient Spartans were a warrior race; every man served for a time in the military. Spartan soldiers who died in war were granted a special privilege: Their graves had headstones. Their names were written on the stones so they would not be forgotten.
The ancient Norse believed warriors who died in battle were given a favored place in the afterlife. Their spirits were said to be taken to Valhalla, where they lived among their heroes and gods. For these ancient people, there was no nobler death than that of a soldier defending his people.
Minot J. Savage, a popular 1800s Unitarian preacher, once said: “The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men.”
Modern warfare has clouded our judgment. The media give us access to the battlefield that we never had before, and our military’s actions are under more scrutiny now. While the American people should always scrutinize the government’s actions with regard to warfare and how and whether we should be conducting a particular war, we should never take out our frustrations regarding decisions made by our elected elites on the soldiers, sailors and airmen. We should venerate our modern warriors in the way of our ancestors.
A soldier who dies in battle today is no less heroic than those who came hundreds or thousands of years before. They face the same fears, even if they don’t use the same weapons. Let us remember their names and, in their memory, let us not take our freedom for granted.
To all of our soldiers, living and dead, active-duty and veterans: We honor you. We honor your sacrifice. We will remember your names.
God bless you all,