Today is Memorial Day in the United States. The holiday once known as Decoration Day commemorates the men and women who perished under the flag of this country, fighting for what sets our America apart: the freedom to live as we please.
Holiday is a contraction of holy and day; the word originally referred only to special religious days. Here in the U.S. of A. “holiday” means any special day off work or school instead of a normal day off work or school.
The Uniform Holidays Bill which gave us some 38 or 50 Monday shopaholidays moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. Today is May 29. Salute. Proudly.
Lest we forget, the Americans we honor did not “give their lives.” They did not merely perish. They did not just cease living, check out, croak, depart, drop, expire, kick off. kick the bucket, pass away or pass on, pop off, or bite the dust. Their lives were taken from them by force on battlefields around the world. They were killed. Whether you believe they died with honor, whether you believe our cause just, died they did.
Today is not a “free” day off work or school. Today is not the big sale day at the Dollar Store. Today is a day of Honor.
2,367 U.S. service men and women have died in Afghanistan as of May 19. 4,424 U.S. men and women died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. And 134 U.S. men and women have died as the U.S. has introduced “small numbers” of special-operators in the fight against ISIS. Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken was killed in an operation targeting Al-Shabab militants in Somalia this month. They died for thee and for me.
Rolling Stone reported that the U.S. was at war for the entire 2,921 days of the Obama Administration. That’s more days at war than under Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush or any other president. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, today is the 5,749th day at war. Despite every politician’s promises, we are still at war.
More than 666,000 Battle Deaths have occurred since the U.S. was founded.
“All persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.”
The American flag today should first be raised to the top of the flagpole for a moment, then lowered to the half-staff position where it will remain until Noon. The flag should be raised to the peak at Noon for the remainder of Memorial Day.
There are those in this country who would use today to legislate the man out of the fight. They can do that but the men and women we honor today knew you cannot legislate the fight out of the man. They have fought and they have died to protect us from those who would kill us. And perhaps to protect us from those who would sell out our birthright.
There is no end to the mutts who would kill our men and women in uniform even faster than they would kill their own. If I had but one wish granted on this day, I wish not another soldier dies. Ever. But die they did around the world again this year and die they will. For us. For me.
Because those men and women died, I get to write these words again this year. And you get to read them. You get to rail about Islam or Presbyterianism or Frisbeeism without fear of the government. And I get to read it. Please pause and reflect as you go to a concert, stop at an artist’s studio, grill a burger, or simply read a book in the sunshine the price we pay to keep our right to do those things. Remember a soldier who died in combat today. Thank a living soldier today. And then do it again tomorrow.
Editor’s Note: This column is slightly updated from one that first appeared in 2008.