“We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace.” Then Secretary of State Colin Powell, 2003
As many Americans complete a long weekend and/or continue their Spring vacation, consider the reason for the Holiday. Click here for a recent lament that too many people never have understood or have forgotten, the true significance of Memorial Day. Thus, its history deserves a bit of remembering.
Since 1968, Memorial Day has been celebrated on the last Monday in May — yesterday, this year. But it was not always so . . .
As a young farm boy in South Carolina, I was taught that following the Civil War, Southern ladies began a tradition of placing spring flowers on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers buried near where they fell. Later, I learned that many places — North and South — claimed to have held the “original” Memorial Day recalling memories of over a half-million Americans who died in that war. Note: We were and are all Americans — something worth remembering as Confederate memorabilia and heroes are defamed by folks who generally selectively reflect on the history of those times and the conditions that led to war.
In any event, Memorial Day has been celebrated on various dates ever since — to remember those who died in our nation’s wars. In the latter days of World War I, John McCrea reflected on the fallen and composed his famous poem “In Flanders Field” while burying a friend among the poppy flowers, originating the practice of wearing poppies to commemorate Memorial Day:
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
“We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
In 1921, the first “unknown soldier” was buried at Arlington Cemetery in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, upon which was subscribed “HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD.” Since then on Memorial Day, Presidents have laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — rain or shine — by a “select” honor guard from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard,” serving since 1784. Given that “21” symbolizes the highest honor, the sentry takes 21 steps, faces the tomb for 21 seconds, turns and pauses 21 seconds, then retraces his steps—always with his rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb to signify that he stands between the tomb and any possible threat.
In 1958, President Eisenhower placed soldiers in the tomb from WWII and the Korean War, and in 1984, President Ronald Reagan placed a soldier from the Vietnam War in the tomb — though a subsequent DNA test identified him as Lieutenant Michael Blassie, an Air Force Academy graduate who was reburied at Jefferson Memorial Cemetery in his home town — St. Louis, Missouri.
Memorial Day honors all who gave their lives defending America’s freedom, including those who served in the Spanish-American War, World War I; World War II; the Korean War; the Vietnam War; Desert Storm; and up to current conflicts including the war against Islamic Terror.
Charles Michael Province, a U.S. Army veteran and President of The George S. Patton, Jr. Historical Society, wrote a poem that says it all:
It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
Following your Spring retreat this past extended weekend — pause again and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that you can enjoy the freedom we so often take for granted. And remember their families and loved ones left behind. And remember the wounded in the recent conflicts and those who still stand in harm’s way so that you and I can breathe free.
Thank God for this land and those who made and make our freedom possible.
Pray that we will not fail to do our duty to keep faith with our Founders and those who have sacrificed to keep their gift to us and our posterity.
Concluding Thoughts, While Storm Clouds Gather.
We live in a very dangerous time — as I have repeated often, the most dangerous in my memory and we seem to have lost our way.
Hopefully, President Trump’s recent trip abroad has left in its wake a reversal of last year’s regular observation that, “Our friends no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us.”
Our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen continue standing in harm’s way to protect us — now joined by those local, state and federal authorities who guard us at home against the horrible actions of Islamic terrorism, so visibly demonstrated in at least four other nations last week.
As noted last week, focusing on the Shiite Iranian threat will indeed help unite the Sunni Arabs into our efforts to combat Islamic terrorism — and that’s a good thing. But we should not become too hopeful for great progress quickly in contending with Iran, which is nearing a nuclear capability that threatens U.S. citizens, if it does already not have it. We should not forget that Iran’s ally North Korea is clearly on the prowl — and could share its nuclear capabilities with Iran, for a price or as a gift. Moreover, Iran, the world’s greatest sponsor of Islamic terror, also has profound links to terrorism within both Shia and Sunni ranks. And the Saudi originated global Wahhabi influence also continues to feed the global Islamic terrorism that gave us al Qaeda, ISIS and other Sunni terrorist groups.
We should build truly effective defenses against these threats as soon as possible, while we await progress on President Trump’s challenge in Riyadh last week.
Pray that we will dither no longer as our leaders seek to plot a viable strategy to counter the existential threats we confront, and that we shall provide sound means to confront them to reverse the atrophy of the past eight years.
We need again to restore the Patriot’s Dream of America as an exceptional land — the “City on a Hill” as my favorite President Ronald Reagan often referred to it, in quoting John Winthrop’s challenge to the Puritans as their ships approached their future home in Massachusetts: “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”
Like them, we need again to seek God’s blessing and guidance — in Irving Berlin’s words of that favorite song of my youth, sung in weekly grade school chapel sessions and enjoyed in regular radio renditions, especially during World War II. Click here for Kate Smith’s original rendition, and some historic film memorabilia, including Ronald Reagan’s image from one of his early films.
“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
“God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.”
Stay tuned following Kate Smith’s historic rendition for Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to be an American.” Amen to both! We must keep faith with those who paid — and are paying — for our freedom with their lives. Let Freedom Ring!
What can you do?
Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.
Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage www.highfrontier.org for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.
Encourage them to review our past email messages, posted on www.highfrontier.org, to learn about many details related to the existential manmade and natural EMP threats and how we can protect America against them.
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