Editor’s Note: Here is a reprint of a column commemorating Memorial Day, by Mort Marks, our former, long-running opinion columnist. Mort passed away in 2019, and he was a proud veteran of WWII and combat survivor of the Battle of the Bulge in the frigid winter of 1944.
Even before the Civil War ended, many women in the South began placing flowers on soldiers graves – both Confederate and Union. What began with fresh cut flowers has now become a living tradition.
Their thoughtfulness and generosity were so inspirational that the same heartfelt sentiment soon swept our Country and became our Country’s national tradition of “Memorial Day”.
On the first official National Memorial in 1868, General James A. Garfield, speaking at Arlington National Cemetery said, “If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of 15,000 men whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung.”
Since then the meaning of Memorial Day has grown, and it is not preserved by cold marble markers, but by living spirit. It has become a time for remembering all the men and women who gave up their lives in all of our Country’s wars.
A day to remember that from France’s Flanders Field to the Pacific Ocean, from Korea and Vietnam, from Mississippi to Colorado’s Fort Logan, there lie more than a million dead Americans who fought to preserve our “Way of Life”.
I can still remember the day when I visited the tomb of them “Unknown Soldier” and walked past the graves of other fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, which was one special Memorial Day for me so many, many years ago.
I remember finding myself surrounded by both active duty service men and women, veterans in in their uniforms, and civilians – all there to show their respect for those who had paid the supreme price while serving their Country.
All of us veterans present at Arlington that day made it very clear that we’d never forget our comrades who were not as lucky as we to have escaped the bullets of our enemies. We who had served under fire knew that the only difference between ourselves and our fallen comrades was only a fraction of an inch or a second of time, because when guns are firing whether a soldier lives or dies is no more certain than the roll of the dice.
And let us all remember that our Country’s freedom, contrary to the sound of the word, is not “free.” It comes at a high price, and those who pay the ultimate price do not get to share in its benefits – only we who are left behind are the fortunate ones.
On this Memorial Day 2019, let us offer a heartfelt prayer for those wo died for our Country so that we could live as free people in a free country.
Let us remember that it was these veterans, not the preacher, who gave us “Freedom of Religion”.
It is these veterans, not the reporter, who has given us “Freedom of the Press.”
It is these veterans, not the poet, who have given us “Freedom of Speech.”
It is these veterans, not the campus organizers, who have given us “Freedom To Assemble.”
It is these veterans, not the lawyers, who have given us the “Right to a Fair Trial.”
It is these veterans, not the politicians, who have given us the “Right to Vote.”
And to those veterans, who served and died under our Country’s flag, let us remember to say “God bless them all!