Monday, May 31, 2010

Not Just Another Weekend...

Today is Memorial Day. It is a day of reflection, though its meaning has become more and more obscured by the excitement of a three-day weekend, and a break from work and our everyday routines.

But as we revel in the parties, picnics and vacations, we must remember the meaning behind today. This isn’t a free holiday. It came with a price, and we must never forget those that paid it and the ones they left behind.

In all likelihood, someone, somewhere today will get a knock on the door informing them that their husband/wife/son/daughter/father/mother/sister/brother will not be returning home. And for them, Memorial Day will never be just another party, picnic or vacation.

So in honor of Memorial Day--and in honor of the heroes who are the reason for this day--I wanted to share two of my favorite poems. The first was written by a Canadian surgeon in May 1915. The second was written by a high school senior in 1981. Though separated by decades and different wars, the words still resonate today as we send our friends and family members, a new generation, off to war...unsure if they will ever come home.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Freedom Is Not Free
by Kelly Strong

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of TAPS one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That TAPS had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

Today is Memorial Day. Please take the time to remember those who gave their lives to keep us free, as well as the loved ones left behind whose lives will never be the same. Freedom truly is not free. We honor them only once a year, but they honor us every day with their service and sacrifice. Thank you to those who have served, those who are serving, those who will serve...and especially to those who gave all.

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