Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

What makes a man lay down his life for his country? Particularly a free man, in the prime of youth?

For lots of us,the long weekend with the family, the unofficial start to summer, the backyard barbecue and the roadtrip are what Memorial Day is all about. And that is more correct than we imagine...but for reasons I don't think most of us realize.

The Americans who gave their lives - what President Lincoln aptly referred to as `the last full measure of devotion' -did not do so for glory, for conquest, for some turgid political slogan or to enslave and tyrannize others.

They gave their lives to keep the country free, to protect and preserve the people and the nation they left behind.

They made the ultimate sacrifice so that the mainstream of the American public could be free to enjoy a backyard barbecue, a day with the family..or, to put it another way, ordinary day to day life in a free country. They voted with their lives, not for some utopia but to preserve the decent, everyday American life,liberty and pursuit of happiness they left behind. For others,if not for themselves.

There's a spot on a very well travelled freeway not too far from my home that I pass by frequently. It's a huge VA center and memorial cemetery, and it's clearly visible from the highway.

I've been inside before, and I've never once passed by without relecting on the young men and women buried there. They had faith in something bigger than themselves, though many of them probably didn't articulate in quite that way. All of them wanted to live, but they were willing to die,if necessary so that the rest of us could.

That was their heartfelt gift to us, and we owe them our thanks.

Remember that when you're partaking of that divine draught of everyday liberty. And if you see some of the ones that made it home marching in parades to honor the ones that didn't, or simply run into a veteran in the course of the ordinary life that was their gift to us, let them know how much you appreciate it.

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