- Memorial Day is about honoring the memories of those who died in the service of this nation.
- Of all the statues, memorials, and holidays, the greatest place to honor those who have fallen is in the hearts of the American people.
- Do We the People honor the memories of those who gave the last full measure of devotion to preserve the Constitution, liberty, and justice for all of us.
MEMO’RIAL, noun That which preserves the memory of something; any thing that serves to keep in memory.
MEMORIAL – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Once a year America sets aside a day to preserve the memory of those who have given their last measure of devotion to this country. This day of memory is relegated by many to a simple holiday, a day off work, and a chance for a cookout. For others, it is a time for parades and decorating cemeteries. Regardless of how you treat this day, it is a day to remember the honored dead, those who gave their lives so we could live free. I think we owe it to them, to our families, and to ourselves, to honor their sacrifice and do all we can to secure the blessings of liberty for everyone.
Statues, cemeteries, and holidays are all ways to honor things we want to remember. Washington, D.C. is covered with memorials for everything from our Founding Fathers to civil rights leaders, and war heroes from WWII to Vietnam. Some of the most hallowed ground is dedicated to those who gave their lives for our freedom.
Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Gettysburg Battlefield are just some of the cemeteries where we honor those who died in battle. By far though, the most honored memorial has to be the hearts of the American people. While millions of Americans visit our memorials and cemeteries every year, it seems harder and harder to find the memorials in American hearts. What happens when we cede that hallowed place in our hearts or when we no longer preserve the memory of those who gave their lives for us?
Cost of Liberty
Thomas Paine wrote in The American Crisis:
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.
The American Crisis by Thomas Paine
As the American people lost touch with the cost of our liberty, it seems we also came to esteem it too lightly. Could it be that recent generations have obtained their rights and liberties too cheaply? Is that why so few Americans see the value in things like their freedom of speech or right to privacy? What will it take for the American people to hold their rights dearly?
Yes, we’ve had our wars, but they’ve had little impact on the homeland. Not since the Cold War, with its threat of nuclear annihilation, have the American people had any real, tangible fear of a foreign enemy. That’s not to say there are not dangers and threats to our republic from enemies both foreign and domestic. It just seems like those threats are not taken as seriously. Sure, we may gripe and complain, but not many men are heading down to the recruitment office to sign up. And just how many Americans are willing to give up their soft, cushy lives to protect their own rights? Since we have not fought for our rights, it seems we are more than willing to give them away for the false promise of prosperity.
This time of year, I like to rewatch Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan. They remind me of the sacrifices made so I could be born in a free country. Perhaps you prefer All Quiet on the Western Front, Hacksaw Ridge, or Zero Dark Thirty. The point is all of these movies give audiences an idea of what we put our soldiers through. While these movies may seem graphic, so is war. While the deaths we see on the screen are fiction, we seem to have lost touch with the true cost of the real battles and the lives lost and destroyed. All was done to protect the Constitution from those enemies, so that it could be used to protect our rights. To me, that sounds like a pretty weak memorial to those who gave their lives for our rights.
After 9/11, it seemed people across this country were thanking everyone in a uniform or wearing a veteran’s cap for their service. Men and women were buying coffee and meals for service men and women wherever we found them. We did what we could to honor their service, but somehow that doesn’t seem to be enough. After all, what did it cost us? A few dollars, a couple minutes of our time, and maybe just a little bit of embarrassment? On Veterans Day, we remember those who have served with a thank you and maybe a parade, but Memorial Day is supposed to be for those who died for our freedom. Can the American people not find room in their hearts to remember these men and women who gave so much so we could live free? I’m reminded of the words the signers of the Declaration of Independence used to close that document.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Declaration of Independence
Perhaps on this Memorial Day, We the People should make our own pledge to the dead. Pledging out lives is not simply being willing to die, but willing to live as a free people. Not dependent on others, especially government, for our everyday lives. We are the wealthiest people in history. Even the poor in America live in more square footage and have more conveniences than the average European. We should pledge our fortune to support rights and liberty, not just our own, but of others as well. We must pledge to each other, on our sacred honor, to support those who stand for truth and justice, even if it costs us our lives and fortunes.
If we wish to honor the dead this Memorial Day, I can think of no better way to do so than to pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor to the cause of rights and liberty. Will you join me?
Paul Engel is an Affiliate of Institute on the Constitution. He founded The Constitution Study in 2014 to help everyday Americans read and study the Constitution. Author and speaker, Paul has spent more than 20 years studying and teaching about both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. Freely admitting that he “learned more about our Constitution from School House Rock than in 12 years of public school” he proves that anyone can be a constitutional scholar. You can find his books on the Institute on the Constitution Store (theamericanview.com), Amazon, and Apple Books. You can also listen to his weekday radio show on America Out Loud (https://americaoutloud.com/the-constitution-study). You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org