“Poor is the nation that has no heroes. Poorer still is the nation that, having heroes, fails to remember and honor them.” Marcus Tullius Cicero
Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s a day we mark with picnics and parades. The unofficial beginning of summer, yet so much more than the chance to eat hot dogs and buy a new swimsuit.
Decoration Day, as the holiday was originally known, began after the Civil War–our bloodiest conflict. It was a time when a divided country was trying to heal–perhaps as we are today.
We mark the day on the last Monday of May–but May 30 had been the selected date before three-day weekends became a priority. May 30 reminds us of no notable battles from the Civil War. The day only reminds us of those who’ve given themselves for the cause of country–our country.
We enrich ourselves in this remembering.
Remembering those who’ve done noble things tells us we can be noble too.
Of his sailors and marines at Iwo Jima in World War II, Admiral Chester Nimitz said, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Iwo Jima is famous for the flag-raising image that is now a statue.
Three of the six flag raisers died in battle.
My father was in the South Pacific as a Navy medic. He was someone who went to war to make sure others came home safely. Someone who hoped not to see battle–but was prepared in case he did,
“Courage, G.K. Chesterton said, “is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”
Today we remember those who wanted to live but gave themselves instead.