As we celebrate Memorial Day, I have been thinking a bit.
Many of you will already know of John A. Logan. A fellow Illini, he is one of only 3 mentioned by name in our state song. (The other two are Lincoln and Grant.) Don’t worry – I’m not going to quote the Illinois state song. He fought in the Mexican-American War, and as a general for the Union forces in the War Between the States.
Logan is regarded by most as the main mover and shaker in the movement to recognize Memorial Day – originally known as Decoration Day – as an official holiday. Much of the credit for the fact that we celebrate and give thanks together as a nation today belongs to him.
I was particularly struck by something he said:
“Let no vandalism or avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic.”
Amen to that.
Many years later, John F. Kennedy said:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Over the years, we have paid a great price, as a nation, to ensure that success. But a country’s loss cannot begin to equal the loss of those loving individuals and families who, willingly or unwillingly, allowed their children, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts and cousins to go off to fight for our freedoms – and then never held their loved ones in their arms again.
We can thank the dead, but cannot know whether they hear, or care. Still, I do thank them. But I also thank the living; those who gave – and lost – their darlings, and who will always grieve.
John Milton said:
“They also serve
Who only stand and wait.”
Finally, on Memorial Day some of us think – or are asked – to pause for a moment of silence.
There is a much more profound silence than our momentary one, of course.
The Reverend Aaron Kilbourn put it well when he said:
“The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem.”
For all who served and paid the ultimate price, we remember and thank you today.
For all who have ever served, we thank you for your service and for protecting our nation.
For those who continue to serve, we thank you for protecting us, and pray you that you come home safely – and soon.
By remembering and acknowledging the service and sacrifices of all the members of our armed services, both past and present, we are compelled to remember that freedom is not free, and that it might be lost were we ever to stop fighting for it.
How wonderful it would be if that fight could take place in board rooms and halls of justice instead of on battlefields. Maybe one day. Until then,
God Bless America.