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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Memorial Day 2011: Is Respect Passe’?

Once upon a time, Memorial Day was celebrated with flags, parades, and services at war cemeteries as we remembered those who had given their lives for our freedom.  People wore poppies and placed flowers on graves.  Patriotic Americans were quoted, such as Nathan Hale, who said, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

Nowadays, I’m not so sure.  The Gettysburg address has given way to the ubiquitous, long weekend getaway.  Barbeques and beaches replace a moment of silence for the slain.

We have been blessed during my lifetime to not have any war waged within the United States.  Yet, our men and women are still serving faithfully worldwide— in Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and Iraq— and maybe I’m old-fashioned enough to imagine that they deserve a little respect and honor on my side.

Unless you live in Smalltown, USA (which is looking more and more attractive from my vantage point), respect is in short supply.  Today, there is no respect for the flag, respect for sacrifice, respect for prayer, and the National Anthem is often sung in the strangest manner possible.  What is sacred any more, other than self?

Our melting pot country that once stood for unity in diversity is now more about me-firstism and taking what we can get, rather than giving for the good of the whole.  I’ll never forget when the first Gulf War broke out and those in the Armed Forces were shocked that service to our country did not equal a free college education, period.  That sense of entitlement had permeated even the ranks of our soldiers.

If it sounds macabre to honor those who made the supreme sacrifice by laying down their lives for another, then maybe on Monday you can pause to honor human sacrifice in general on behalf of our great nation.  There are those all around us who help to strengthen our nation in good times and in bad, who are fighting on a different battlefield, perhaps the battlefield of ideas and perceptions, but battling nonetheless.

All around the world, there are lines circling American Embassies as foreigners seek visas to enter this land.  When they arrive, what will they find?

I pray that it will be honor, duty, and self-sacrifice… in whatever ways each of us is able to serve and support our nation.

President Abraham Lincoln was well-known during the Civil War to have visited the wounded on both sides of the battlefield.   There was no Memorial Day back then, but he took the time on one occasion to send a letter of condolence to a widow who lost five sons during the struggle.  You might want to Google his letter to Mrs. Bixby in Massachusetts to read it in its entirety, but it ends like this, sending a message even today to the families of all those who are fallen:

“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom. Yours very respectfully, A. Lincoln.”



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4 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Gwendolyn says:

    Since I think America the Beautiful gets it exactly right — in the verses we rarely sing! — I append the lyrics here. I’ve marked the lines I particularly love with a leading ‘+.’

    America the Beautiful*

    O beautiful for spacious skies,
    For amber waves of grain,
    For purple mountain majesties
    Above the fruited plain!
    America! America!
    +God shed His grace on thee,
    +And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea!

    O beautiful for pilgrim feet
    Whose stern impassion’d stress
    +A thoroughfare for freedom beat
    Across the wilderness.
    America! America!
    +God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
    +Confirm thy soul in self-control,
    +Thy liberty in law.

    O beautiful for heroes prov’d
    In liberating strife,
    +Who more than self their country loved,
    +And mercy more than life.
    America! America!
    +May God thy gold refine
    +Till all success be nobleness,
    +And ev’ry gain divine.

    +O beautiful for patriot dream
    +That sees beyond the years
    Thine alabaster cities gleam
    Undimmed by human tears.**
    America! America!
    +God shed His grace on thee,
    +And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea.

    * I copied and pasted from Wikipedia.
    ** I never could figure out whether this line was descriptive or prescriptive — or a request! Is it: “No one cries [tears] in thy cities!” or is it: “The crying [tears] in thy cities does not dim their beauty.” or is it “Let there be no tears in thy alabaster cities!”

    • avatar admin says:

      Thank you for sharing this, Gwendolyn. It IS a deep song and a moving tribute for we adults-! I’m sad to say I doubt my kids know the song– sure they’ve heard it, or even sung it on the isolated holiday occasion, but I want them to be really familiar with it now that they speak English, it’s so beautiful. We’re going to be talking with them this weekend… and America the Beautiful will be a part.

  2. avatar meant2be says:

    I wish now I had taken the time to really talk to the girls about Memorial Day. I must admit that being a parent of a child who is a Veteran of Foreign War, I tend to go into survival mode when the painful memories try to sneak in. I learned that from my Mother when my brother was stationed in Vietnam when I was only four years old. I think it might be time to break this cycle.

    • avatar admin says:

      I used to always keep a stiff upper lip, and usually still do. But now I sometimes think we’ve become so antiseptic that no one knows that these things deeply touch us and that’s not bad at all….

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