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Roger Helle / May 22, 2020

Memorial Day — Lest We Forget

Remember those on the frontlines of freedom who stand ready to put their lives on the line.

It’s that time of year again. A long holiday weekend with cookouts, picnics in the park, and blockbuster commercial sales. At least that’s what many think Memorial Day weekend is all about. As much of the country is still shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re stuck at home longingly pondering years past.

It was originally called Decoration Day when it was first celebrated right after the Civil War, a four-year conflict during which the two sides lost a combined 620,000 men. This figure is more than all of America’s other wars combined. In 1868, members of the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration Day to honor fallen Union soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers. Confederate veterans began to do the same.

Congress passed legislation in 1968 making the last Monday in May “Memorial Day.” The law went into effect in 1971. Most younger Americans have not been taught the incredible sacrifice made to keep our nation free from tyranny. We need to change that.

From the Revolutionary War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, brave men and women have placed themselves in harm’s way to defend freedom — ours as well as that of others. WWII freed countless millions across the globe from fascism and Japanese imperialism. The “only” land we took was what we needed to bury our dead. Including those who died of disease or starvation, more than 1.3 million Americans have died defending freedom since the founding of our nation.

I know there are some who think war is unnecessary. Those who have fought sure wish that were true, but the reality is there will always be tyrants who prey on the weak. The famous British philosopher John Stuart Mill described it this way:

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth a war is much worse. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares about more than he does his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

If you have never been to a communist or socialist country, you might be tempted to think all nations are alike. But America is not like any other nation. Our experiment in a republican form of government is unlike any other country on the planet. Many have tried to imitate it but never accomplished it. I have seen the bitter fruits of both communism and socialism first hand. These nations do not have the freedoms we enjoy each and every day. Speaking out against your government — including protesting and burning the flag of that nation — could cost your freedom or even your life.

This Memorial Day weekend, take time to remember those on the frontlines of freedom who stand ready to put their lives on the line so you can enjoy the life you have. Think about the 1.3 million who laid down their lives for you. Freedom is never free!

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