Memorial Day began in the years immediately following the Civil War. But until World War II, most people knew it as “Decoration Day.” It was a day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and flags. It was a time to remember those who had given, as Lincoln beautifully said, “the last full measure of devotion” …to defend their nation. It was a day to remember what the honored dead had died to defend.
It’s been 154 years since General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox, Virginia… effectively ending America’s Civil War…a national nightmare that filled over 625,000 American graves with dead soldiers. Since then, other international nightmares in Europe, North Africa, the Pacific Rim, Asia, and the Middle East have ravaged the world and put more than 650,000 additional Americans into war graves.
Memorial Day weekend is an important national moment. Its significance is far greater than long weekends and barbecues. We would be wise to remember the great price so many have paid to preserve the historically unprecedented civil and religious freedoms we possess and far too many take for granted.
This “remembering” on Memorial Day is more about our future than it is our past. It is crucial that we remember the nightmares and why they happened. If we forget them, we will recreate them. The future of this nation depends on how well we collectively remember nightmares of tyranny and cherish what liberty really is. There’s a high cost to forgetting.
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