The beginning of summer, some call Memorial Day. That first beach trip. That anticipatory weekend when the kids understand that schools about out. The turning of the weather with the rising of the thermometer to stay up there, above 70. This shall be a long weekend for most, a welcome extra day off.
But lets hope that, during our relaxation over the next three days, we find our way to a cemetery, to a knee if thats our belief, to our thoughts, our deep thoughts, about why we have this day, and what it means. Unlike Veterans Day, which honors all those who have served America in uniform, Memorial Day honors the men and women who made that ultimate sacrifice, who died in service.
Theirs is a profound price to pay for freedom, and thanks to them that freedom, with all its contention and raised voices and angry politics and dispute, survives. It survives because on those battlefields in World War I and World War II and Korea and Vietnam and in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf there were troops who put on the uniform and went to the fields never knowing if they would return.
Those who died carried pictures of their families, the families they would not see again. They came home to floods of tears from wives and husbands and children who were devastated, whose lives were forever changed by the loss. Some never smiled again.
Today, they wont have to be urged to got to the cemetery where their Marine, their soldier lies. Theyll get up early and gather their flowers and maybe their notes and they will go. And they will linger there, with the fallen. The day will see many, some from far, far away, visiting Arlington and the other honorable places. Some will visit the white grave markers in Europe on behalf of the people America left behind there.
The pain will linger for the families, but they know the sacrifice was one their loved ones made consciously, honorably, for their country.
Ah, yes, the country. Our divided country, ever more apart, split by politics and race and gender and religion, struggles on against internal upheaval.
But heres the day, then, to remember what got us here. Today is the day when Republican and Democrat, tea partyer and liberal, black and white should be able to link arms as an honor guard passes, as a bugler blows "Taps," as a wreath is laid. Because all are Americans, and all must honor the Americans who gave their lives with no political party in mind. No, a soldier never went into battle thinking he would protect just Democrats or just Republicans. That soldier fought for a country, one country, united by its history of hard-won freedom, of shared forefathers, of free speech and religion and all other rights so established after Yorktown, as a new nation came slowly to life.
The nation is not so new. But its principles of freedom and individual rights are fresh everlasting.
And those we honor today, those we must honor, those to whom we owe a profound honor, made it so. God bless them, and God bless the America they helped preserve.