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Posted: June 8, 2018 3:29 p.m.
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Memorial Day demands of the living

As we take time to visit Warriors Walk and the other monuments around Fort Stewart and the surrounding communities, we acknowledge what President Lincoln called ‘the last full measure of devotion.’  On Memorial Day, our nation remembers and honors those who sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation.  Across the land, Americans are cleaning monuments, planning parades, laying wreaths, and placing new flags at graves.

I ponder the balance of pausing to reflect on death and loss in the midst of spring’s exuberant frenzy.  I also consider the words of the ancient Roman poet Horace, “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country).  I align these words with Christian scriptures, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) and conclude that the desire for a noble life culminating in an honorable death is ingrained in us.  However, only a small portion of Americans over our country’s history have given that last full measure.  Our nation is grateful for their faithfulness and sacrifice.  The American values and freedoms they died protecting live on today.  We rightfully honor these men and women.

We must also remember that they are not the only ones who sacrificed.  Every gravestone and each engraved name in town squares throughout America represents someone with buddies and families that were left with loss.  Our nation and each of us have been touched by their loss.  Each battlefield death may have helped to secure America’s future, but it also meant that America lost a future father or mother, a potential doctor or poet, and so many other possible contributing citizens.

 

The English poet John Donne wrote of such a loss as ours nearly 400 years ago:

 

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend's were.

Each man's death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

 

As we remember and honor our fallen this Memorial Day, let us also grieve our loss.  Memorial Day is not just for those who have died; it is also for the living.  So, we the living must carry on the unfulfilled 


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