Ultimate Sacrifices, Past & Present
Memorial Day this year is different. It’s different because we are in the middle of a pandemic. Traditionally, Memorial Day is the start of summer in the United States. People gather, take trips, enjoy time at the beach or a lake. Our family does as well. Now, we are all trying to plan in different ways. We ask: What should we do? How close do we get? Do we all stay in one house together? Or, we say: We got to get out. We can’t keep living this way. We’ll do what we do, regardless. Both responses are fair.
I love Memorial Day and really the whole month of May. It’s when the excitement of summer plans become reality. The holiday communicates a break is needed and coming. School is out. Kids can sleep late, parents get a respite from homework, and summer sports are in full swing. Baseball is on, as is the French Open, NBA playoffs, and horse racing.
This year is so different, but in the most important way, it’s the same. Our family has visited military graveyard ceremonies on Memorial Day. We want our kids to know the day means more than cookouts, swimming, tubing, and family. It’s about a larger national family and those who died for it. Ultimate sacrifices were given defending our freedoms.
If you read our blog, you know I love World War II history (here and here). My thoughts on Memorial Day often drift to The Greatest Generation. Those who landed in Morocco, Tunisia, then Sicily, and France, fighting across Europe to rescue a world gone mad. I remember other wars, from 1917 to 1776 to 2006. Memorial Day commemorates all soldiers and families who’ve given more than we will ever know. In sacrificing more than we can imagine, we carve out time to remember and memorialize. In this way, Memorial Day stays the same.
This year is different because we are in the middle of a new conflict. Casualties are mounting. An invisible enemy makes itself visible in sickness, possible death, job loss, and economic fear. Who are those sacrificing for us right now?
Essential workers. Those who care for our basic needs: keeping the electricity and water on, bagging groceries, pumping gas, and serving food. Medical personnel. Those who can’t slow down. While each city, state, and nation differs, they are saving lives against a dreaded and deadly disease. Some have become infected, some have died. I know doctors who are afraid, for themselves and their families. It is a new war around us, and I remember those sacrifices this weekend. But you can keep going. Those out of work or fearful of unemployment or managing challenging new work conditions. I hurt for anyone facing possible or real job loss. I see present and future predictions in the news. It’s painful. No one wants this. We all feel it.
What can we do? To start, we can use this Memorial Day to remember the people who pay the price, make the sacrifice, & give their lives. Many are around us. I pray for them, and make conscious efforts to be considerate to all, doing what I can to help as we move forward together. All of us want to enjoy life: go to the lake, be with family, cookout, take trips. We need it, desperately. Some of us just want to watch live baseball. I take solace and understand the simple sacrifices people made in other times of uncertainty and war.
I close with a quote from Winston Churchill, whom I consider an un-official American President (his mother was American). When times were most dark, and the way ahead most unclear, he said:
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender……..Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
One reason I love World War II is as a nation and as a world, they united to face the dangerous reality. Can we do so today? I believe we can. The reality of what’s ahead, even if unknown, becomes clearer. We adapt and endure. We cultivate what is good and create what can be better. We don’t have to yield to fear. The world didn’t in World War II. We don’t have to now. As we remember, we receive courage for the fight and a confidence and faith that never yields.
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