This is not your warm and fuzzy Memorial Day column. We have for too long subsumed Memorial Day into the trivialities of summer’s advent, backyard cookouts, a long weekend, bargain sales and vacations. It’s not universal but it is culturally broad.
This is a sad and dangerous devolution to a narcissistic day celebrating little more than the prurient pursuits of a day off, not the ultimate sacrifice of so many who died protecting our lofty ideals.
Cookouts and vacays are not why we have Memorial Day.
The more we lose our heritage, our founding principles, our moorings anchored to how we got to where we are, the more we lose who we are. And when we lose who we are, we are no more. We become another geographic location on the map, not an ideal, not a bright shining city on a hill.
And as exceptional and imperative as are the principles that created America and turned it into the most fundamentally world-changing nation for good in history, it could not have happened — or been maintained — without those willing to fight and die to protect her from centuries of tyrants and dictators around the world.
This is the hard reality we can never lose sight of: Freedom is not free. It must be fought for every generation, or it will be taken by those who do not love it. Always that battle is done with the proverbial pen and mic, by people such as me, along with good political leaders. But too often it must be done by huge numbers of brave men and women who are willing to kill and be killed to maintain those freedoms for others. Sometimes it has been to bring those freedoms to others.
Yes, please thank a veteran. They risked the same. But remember, the ones you cannot thank are the ones who never came home; those who never got the flag-waving return, the glorious reunion hugs, the warmth and glow of family, even the struggles of reintegration from battlefield into a society of peace and laws.
The ones we cannot thank for their service are the ones we celebrate today, along with those family and friends that bore the brunt of their loss — who live without them daily because of what they gave for us.
So let us resolve to remember Memorial Day for what it truly is. Remind your friends and family before unloading the grill, before heading to the beach, before heading to a game, that this is a day of sober reflection, of remembrance of those whose chairs at the table are empty. If you have the courage, remind the server at the restaurant, the clerk at the gas station, the neighbor mowing the yard of what this day really means. Remind the young person who may not know.
The only way we don’t lose Memorial Day’s profound meaning is if we as individual Americans find a tiny fraction of the courage of those no longer with us, to remind each other why we have this day — why we are still free, why we are who we are and must continue to be for the next generation.
And why we must always be grateful, and never forget.
Rod Thomson is an author, TV talking head and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. Rod is co-host of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod on the Salem Radio Network.
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