Remember the True Meaning of Memorial Day

By Rick Saunders
America’s Right

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:

The American Cemetery at Aisne-Marne, France.
A total of 2,289 of our military dead.
The American Cemetery at Ardennes, Belgium.
A total of 5,329 of our military dead.
The American Cemetery at Brittany, France.
A total of 4,410 of our military dead.
Brookwood, England American Cemetery.
A total of 468 of our military dead.
Cambridge, England.
3,812 of our military dead.
The American Cemetery at Epinal, France.
A total of 5,525 of our military dead.
Flanders Field, in Belgium.
A total of 368 of our military dead.
Florence, Italy.
A total of 4,402 of our military dead.
Henri-Chapelle, Belgium.
7,992 of our military dead.
Lorraine, France.
A total of 10,489 of our military dead.
Luxembourg, Luxembourg American Cemetery.
A total of 5,076 of our military dead.
Meuse-Argonne, France.
A total of 14,246 of our military dead.
Netherlands, Netherlands.
A total of 8,301 of our military dead.

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.

The American Cemetery at Normandy, France.
A total of 9,307 of our military dead.
Oise-Aisne, France.
A total of 6,012 of our military dead.
Rhone, France.
A total of 861 of our military dead.
Sicily, Italy
A total of 7,861 of our military dead.
Somme, France
A total of 1,844 of our military dead.
St. Mihiel, France.
A total of 4,153 of our military dead.
Suresne, France.
A total of 1,541 of our military dead.
We Remember.

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.



  1. Gail B says:

    Beautiful tribute, Rick. Quite moving. Thank you.

  2. Dee says:

    Beautiful, Rick.

  3. Gail B says:

    Rick, those photographs say things that words haven’t.

    Each one of those pictures shows an appreciation, a respect, for those Americans beneath those white crosses. The entire scene of each shows care in planning and a sense of beauty.

    It’s as though the nation was thinking, “We have done our best to honor those lying beneath our soil. We appreciate their sacrifices.”

  4. Claudia says:

    I saw that group of pictures the other day as they were included in an email about Obama apologizing to the world for/about US…..

    Apologize to no one!

    Remind them of our sacrifice and don't confuse "Arrogance with leadership."

    IF I ADDED CORRECTLY THAT COUNT (above) IS Approx 105,000 (in reality – 104,366) DEAD. ARROGANT, DISMISSIVE MEN & WOMEN WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES TO FREE EUROPE! And that is ONLY WESTERN EUROPE, not in the Pacific at all or Vietnam, Laos, Thialand, Cambodia, Korea (North and South), Africa, the Philipines, Japan, Guam, Bataan, Midway, China or EVEN EASTERN EUROPE, Russian, Germany, Poland, Kosovo, Hungary, Romania, Italy, Greece….. if you total all of those men and women you would have well over a MILLION of our American Citizens who have given their lives for other countries, and that total does NOT INCLUDE the men that gave their lives on our own soil, for OUR UNDYING LOVE OF FREEDOM….. FOR EVERYONE.

    Think about that LOVE for everything we represent and give to the rest of the world, each and every day, with little or nothing ever expected back.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Rick for reminding us that although there are some in this country who would have us believe that the world has no respect for America, these monuments are lasting memorials of respect from those in other countries who are appreciative of what America did to preserve freedom for them. In all countries, there are groups who would like to forget the past and focus only on the here and now. However, there are many more who know the incredible debt that we owe to our military men and women thru the years who have chosen valor and patriotism over selfish interests. Thank God for those brave souls who have given so much. The older I get, the more emotional I become when I ponder what I owe to these heroes. My father served in the Army, my son in the Navy, brothers in the Navy, Marines and Air Force so our family is conscious of duty to our country. There is no nobler calling than to serve your nation…I wish that this next generation and some of our current politicians felt as strongly about honor as those who have served and laid down their lives for freedom. God bless all our military today and I will never take for granted what they have done for us.

  6. Linda says:

    Rick, as you wrote, sadly, regretfully, and all too often the American public thinks of this day as just the first barbecue of the year, or another day off work. GOD BLESS THOSE who have made the ultimate sacrific to make and keep this country (what I hope will continue to be) the greatest country in history. Long may she wave!

  7. PSYDOG says:

    I have been in the military for 26 years and am still to this day. I have lived the military life for this country almost all my life. I want everyone to know that I would lay down my life so that every ‘American Citizen’ can continue to enjoy our freedoms. I have and will continue to fight for unjustly treated people all over the world. If my country calls on me I will pick up my arms and go. This was a wonderful tribute to fallen soldiers, just remember that there are soldiers on the front lines every minute of every day ready to “Defend the Constitution from Enemies Foreign and Domestic”!

    Thank you America for remembering!

  8. Linda says:

    Please excuse me for using the word “hope” in my post. I have stricken this word from my vocabulary since a certain 2008 presidential campaign and it must have just gotten out. I heard that word perfectly described on tv (of all places) the other day when they said in a program: “Hope is paralyzing.”

    So let’s all STRIVE and work to keep this country as the greatest in history.

    Thanks to all of those who have fallen over the ages to make it such.

  9. Let us move forward says:

    I read that Mr. Obama will apologize to Germany for WWII in Dresden. I’m not sure of the spin on that rumor; the fire bombing of Dresden was not necessary and the city was destroyed. To apologize for the firebombing of Dresden would be okay.

    The photos here more than speak of the American lives lost to defeat Germany. If Mr. Obama apologizes for the WAR then that is wrong. Germany started it and did terrible things to non-Aryan people. It would be the ultimate disrespect for the Americans who gave their lives to liberate Europe.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Rick for those moving words. I, too, saw the photos of the European cemeteries in an email and it brought tears to my eyes as your post did just now.

    Thanks from the bottom of my heart to our brave men and women in uniform and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice that we might live free.

    I would like especially at this time to remember my stepfather who passed away two years ago this June, who bore the shrapnel of German guns in his shoulder and leg for 63 years. But I would like also to remember his buddy Rifleman Ed Allen who took the brunt of the blast that wounded my stepfather and whose body they had to peel off him to get him to hospital. It has been our family tradition these many years to say a prayer for Mr. Allen in case there is no one left to remember him. Rest in peace Mr. Allen. Rest in peace Darrell.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for such a moving and sobering tribute.

    There is so much to ponder on this sacred day, and it is overwhelming, but it brings the realization of what is best about our country–unconditional sacrifice.

    I know I, and others, never forget…

  12. Anonymous says:

    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 remeber him along with all our American heros 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.

  13. Still a Patriot says:

    Thanks, Rick, for this powerful tribute. May we never forget what this day truly means.
    God bless America, & all those who have served & sacrificed.

  14. SILVER MEDALS says:

    Just a picture on a table
    Just some letters momma saved
    And a costume broach from England
    On the back it has engraved
    “To Eileen I love you…. London 1943″
    And she never heard from him again
    And he never heard of me

    And the war still ain’t over for momma
    Every night in her dreams she still sees
    The young face of someone who left her
    Silver medals and sweet memories

    In mommas bedroom closet
    To this day on her top shelf
    There’s a flag folded three cornered
    Laying all by itself
    And the sergeant would surely be honored
    To see how lovely she still is
    And that after all these lonely years
    His Eileen’s still his

    And the war still ain’t over for momma
    Every night in her dreams she still sees
    The young face of someone who left her
    Silver medals and sweet memories

    - The Statler Brothers

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