As President Ronald Reagan so vividly and accurately reminded us, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
To many, this Memorial Day will mean you get Monday off, eat BBQ, maybe go to a parade, and watch the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 the day before. It’s a time for families to get together and have a good time. And it signals that summer is finally here.
The real meaning of Memorial Day, though, is to remember and honor the men and women who have died while serving as a member of our nation’s armed forces. Its origin goes back to Civil War times when it was known as Decoration Day and Americans would honor our fallen heroes by putting flowers on their graves.
Since America’s beginning, some 1.3 million of our fellow countrymen have given their lives so that we might be free. These soldiers, sailors, and airmen made the ultimate sacrifice in the American Revolutionary War, Barbary War, War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Beirut deployment, Persian Gulf War and the war on terror (including Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn).
These brave Americans gave their lives on both American and foreign soil. They include some 8,000 on the battlefield at Gettysburg, over 26,000 at the deadliest battle in U.S. history—the Battle of the Argonne Forrest in World War I, and 19,000 at the Battle of the Bulge, the bloodiest battle of World War II. In addition, over 83,000 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War.
God has blessed America by giving us men and women who put America above self and who were willing to give their lives for their country. God has also blessed us by giving us the right military leaders and commanders in chief during our darkest hours. Men like George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman. Men who made tough decisions that no doubt saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of America’s finest.
But where do we find such men and women? We find them where we’ve always found them—at places like Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Normandy. We find them in the very fabric of what it means to be an American. We find them in the “citizen-soldiers” who comprised our first militia and we find them today as young Americans volunteering to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.
President Reagan was right when he spoke about freedom never being more than one generation away from extinction. He went on to say, “We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
Yes, education is a national security issue. This Memorial Day, teach your kids what Memorial Day is really all about. Teach them what it really means to be an American and of the sacrifices made by their countrymen so that they can live in a free America today.
Fly the flag, go to a Memorial Day parade and visit a local veteran’s cemetery. And thank God for giving us men and women such as these. This is the way to honor their memory and remember why we are free this Memorial Day.
Van Hipp is chairman of American Defense International, Inc. (ADI), a Washington, D.C. consulting firm. He is former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, and served on the Presidential Electoral College in 1988. He is the author of "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." To read more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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