Memorial Day much more than a hackneyed cliche

Published 10:16 pm Sunday, May 24, 2009

By Staff
There’s nothing unpatriotic about cooking out on Memorial Day, but somewhere between grilling the burgers and opening the pool, stop to think about the men and women whose sacrifices the day honors.
American troops have died in many wars, some famous, some obscure, some undeclared. Everyone knows we lost tens of thousands of men in the first and second world wars. We also lost 13 in China, 17 in the Dominican Republic and 55 in Nicaragua in various actions.
In our current conflicts, North Carolina has lost 122 service members. Of that total, 94 fell in combat; the rest died other ways. Several have come not just from our state but from our county.
We thank them all for their selfless service in distant lands and on our own soil. Many have died simply to defend their homes. They go because they’re ordered, and we cannot thank them fully enough for that.
The ancient Greek, Pericles, summed it up well, though he wasn’t speaking of Americans: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”
Some groups in the area are holding ceremonies to mark the day. We are glad they do, but the most important memorial isn’t a public gathering or a gallant speech. As Pericles said, it’s in our hearts.
It’s cliche now to harp on the importance of the meaning behind the day. We know that Jesus is the reason for the season, Valentine’s Day should be about more than Hallmark, and Black Friday is something of a perversion of Thanksgiving. We’ve heard the talking heads and have seen the bumper stickers, but it still bears saying again.
Memorial Day shouldn’t be The Day White Pants are OK Again, it should be the day we remember those who have died for us.
So have that beer, and admire the fireworks. But remember that we live in a wonderful country and that many people have died in our country’s name. And maybe take some time for silent reflection, or go to the cemetery and lay some flowers on the graves of your loved ones.
And keep that thanks in your heart as you think about the tough decisions that now confront us as a nation.
We shouldn’t let a fear of casualties dictate our course, but we should remember that every step we take closer to war also takes us closer to a folded flag, “Taps,” a rifle salute and a grieving family.
Give thanks not just Monday but every day. Remember our fallen comrades, and remember that they died in our names.