Thank God They Lived


Today’s post will not be a long one. For those of you in the States, today we’re celebrating Memorial Day. All across America, there are people- loved ones, patriots, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, veterans, grateful Americans- attending tribute parades and pressing American flags into the soil atop the graves of men and women who have given their lives in service to the United States. Today is about honoring the sacrifice they have made. 

Service is always something to applauded, especially when that service entails being away from one’s family and putting oneself in harm’s way. There are times when this service requires the ultimate sacrifice. In fact, such service deserves more than approbation. It deserved the deepest respect and gratitude. That’s what today’s all about. 

While Memorial Day was not instituted as a federal holiday until 1971, the spirit of this day had been embraced by the individual states for nearly a century. The first Memorial Day- called Decoration Day- was established on May 5th, 1866 in Waterloo, NY. At the behest of Northern General John Logan in 1868, the date was changed to the 30th of May and observed on a national scale. 

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.

This tradition grew, and by 1890, nearly all the Northern states had made the 30th of May an official holiday. The South also held their own Decoration Days, only each of those states observed it on different dates.

Then World War I came. The War to End All Wars. With the wide scale loss of life and utter devastation witnessed in that war, many of the scars of the past were forgotten, and the nation truly united as a whole to celebrate Decoration Day on the 30th. In 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Decoration Day was set to be observed on the last Monday of the month of May. In 1971, the name was changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.

However, whether called Decoration Day or Memorial Day, whether observed on the 30th of May or the 5th of May or any other day, the spirit of this day has remained the same. 

It’s a day to stop and remember. It’s a day to stop and reflect on all the blessings we possess because people have been willing to lay down their lives to protect our intrinsic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are inalienable, but they are not cheap. More accurately, they are not free. They must be protected. They must be fought for. They cost something, something very dear. They are bought with the blood of patriots, men and women who believed so whole-heartedly in the precepts of these inalienable rights they were willing to die to ensure we continued to possess them. 

So today, at 3 P.M. in whatever respective time zone you find yourself, take a minute and join in the national moment of silence. Stop and remember that someone somewhere gave his or her life to make sure you could continue to live in freedom. 

And in that moment of nationally observed silence, remember General George S. Patton’s words: 

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.