Memorial Day Salute 2022

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.”

The last Monday in May each year is Memorial Day, a national holiday, and the official beginning of summer for many Americans. Some celebrate the day by gathering with friends for backyard cookouts. Others pack a picnic and enjoy a day at the shore or in the mountains. Memorial Day is the conclusion of a much-anticipated three-day weekend and a welcome day off from work or school, but it’s much more than that.

Memorial Day is a solemn holiday set aside for remembering, honoring and thanking American heroes who gave what Abraham Lincoln aptly called their “last full measure of devotion.” It is a day to remember the courage and sacrifice of fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Guardsmen who died defending and preserving America’s freedom.

When it comes to courage, G.K. Chesterton got it right when he said: “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” Chesterton was prescient. Our fallen heroes did not go in harm’s way with the intention of dying. Like anyone, they wanted to live, and hoped they would. But our fallen heroes wanted to live free, and they wanted the American people to live free. For this sacred purpose, they were willing to die, and many have.

Since 1775, more than 2.8 million Americans in uniform have given their lives for the cause of freedom. Regardless of when they served or how they died, all the heroes interred in our 155 national cemeteries in the U.S., 26 in foreign countries and numerous other final resting places made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Although Memorial Day is a solemn occasion for remembering, honoring and thanking the fallen, it is not a day of mourning. Gen. George Patton made this clear when he said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God such men lived.” Indeed, we should.

There are few things more selfless or noble than sacrificing one’s life for a higher cause, particularly when that cause is freedom. Scripture makes this clear in John 15:13 where we read: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This is what our fallen heroes did, and this is why we set aside the last Monday of May every year to remember and honor them. This Scripture was quintessentially fulfilled by Jesus Christ when He died for us.

As sad as it is to contemplate the more than 2.8 million American lives cut short in defense of freedom, our heroes did not die in vain. Lord Byron said it best: “They never fail who die in a great cause.” That great cause — freedom — has been fought over from the town squares of Lexington and Concord to the bloody fields of Shiloh and Gettysburg. It was contested in the trenches on the Marne and on the beaches of Iwo Jima. Freedom had to be preserved on the rocky shores of Normandy and the frozen mountains of Korea. It had to be preserved again in the steamy jungles of Vietnam, the wind-swept desert of Iraq and the treacherous mountains of Afghanistan. In every case, brave Americans in uniform answered the call and laid down their lives in the cause of freedom.

Since the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, American heroes have continued to don the uniform in anticipation of serving in defense of freedom, and even dying for it should that be necessary. We don’t know them all, but we owe them all. On this Memorial Day and the days following, we pray you will stop long enough to remember why we are still free.

COPYRIGHT 2022 OLIVER L. NORTH AND DAVID GOETSCH

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