By Rick Saunders
On this Memorial Day weekend, there are many things that Americans should and likely will do. Eat some barbecue; down a few–okay, several–cold ones; take in a movie with friends or family; maybe play some softball.
But one thing is a must: remember, on Memorial Day, its significance and the underlying reasons for its observance. And if, by chance, you run into a soldier or veteran at a park, the movies, a restaurant or at that softball game, shake their hand and thank them. It will make them feel good; better, it will make you feel good. The younger ones may be in uniform, so they’ll be easy to spot; you’ll identify the older ones by their baseball caps referencing their ships or their units or the theaters of war where they served you and yours.
And if you have any trouble remembering exactly what the day is all about, just read the following piece reproduced here. Entitled “Wake Up,” it originally appeared in the Phoenix Gazette on May 28, 1990, and is perhaps one of the most poignant tributes yet penned to the military personnel who have given their final full measure so that you may peacefully enjoy the liberty and freedoms you possess as an American with your friends and family this weekend.
Wake up, Private, they will be here soon.
Colonel, wake up, it’s Memorial Day.
Somebody poke the Lieutenant over there and make sure he’s awake, too. They’re celebrating Memorial Day, and they will be here soon.
They will be here with small American flags pushed through the grass and earth on top of us.
They bring the fragrance of newly blossomed flowers, the stems still moist from the fresh cuts.
They will be here soon with trumpets to remember us and what we did in Arlington and Richmond, Leesburg, Gettysburg and Normandy.
They will come to read our names, touch our headstones.
They will think about you, over there, at Bunker Hill, and you, beyond, and the rest of the men from Fort McHenry.
There will be a salute with rifles, and it will be for you who came here from Guadalcanal and Pork Chop Hill, and you, beyond, from the jungles of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Grenada.
Wake up, Sergeant, they are coming with a speech for you and your soul mates from Beirut and Desert Storm.
They will be here for you, the men and women from Somalia and Panama and the recent fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Stay awake, now, sailor. They will be here soon with a song for you and your mates from the Iowa and the Arizona, the Pueblo, the USS Liberty, the Stark, and the Cole.
And you who served in time of peace but faced the fire and fever while patrolling freedom’s wall, they are coming because you gave the last full measure of devotion.
They are coming with quiet voices.
The assembled will again resolve that none of us, not one of us here, died in vain.
They will pledge that our rows will not lengthen without just cause or without the prayerful counsel of a united nation.
They will deliver to us the sweet, enduring promise that the United States of America shall not perish from the Earth.
They will be here soon, our sons and daughters, our wives and husbands, our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, and those who never knew us.
They have not forgotten.
Originally, my post here was much longer, containing a wide mix of observations about the meaning of Memorial Day juxtaposed against the backdrop of current events. The longer it went, however, the more apparent it became that it was inappropriate to combine into a single piece the message of Memorial Day along with commentary on the passing scene, much of it disgusting and shameful. So the criticisms of the disgusting and shameful were purged, for now, in favor of higher purpose.
Memorial Day comes once every year, so these comments will focus attention only on the courage and valor of those who gave their lives in defense not only of this nation, but in defense of other nations, peoples and, particularly, principles. There will be plenty of days other than this special one to redirect attention to the other, less noble characteristics of our society and culture as it changes before our eyes.
But for now, let us remember those who died for these things and, more importantly, let us not forget the gifts of freedom and liberty they secured to us over the past more than two centuries. And ponder that America still has friends–many abroad–who also truthfully honor our war dead. These, for example, are just in Europe:
From a reader:
Thank you for this memorial and your presentation of photos of all the cemeteries. The one in the Netherlands is in Margraten (the caption omitted that) and my uncle, Richard Stuart Fleming is buried there. We remember him along with all our American heroes who have sacrificed for us over our nation’s history. We now add our father, Bob Fleming, who was in the 508 PIR, survived the War and died 4 OCT 2007. Thanks again this Memorial Day.
No, sir — thank you, and God bless your absolutely selfless and wonderful family.
Rick Saunders is a freelance writer who splits his time between endeavors in southern California and the American southwest. He began writing for America’s Right in December 2008.