“From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that his nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863
I’ve never been to war. I’ve never even served. I don’t know what it’s like to stand in the heat of battle, wondering whether those moments will be my last on earth. I can’t imagine what level of courage that takes.
Yet we have had in our nation’s history men and women who faced those moments because of a deep and abiding passion for something very dear.
Like you, I’ve always believed in the concept of freedom. God first, country second was what we were taught at my school growing up. We even had an annual Patriotic Day school program in May to celebrate our countries’ freedom.
However, I received an education in what freedom really means several years ago when my wife and I took a trip to the Arizona Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii.
I don’t know what I was expecting – just another historical museum symbolizing the greatness and determination of America in the face of adversity. America gets beat up for a second and rises to the occasion again. Hooray U.S.A.!
What I found was much different.
People talked only in whispers on the ferry ride from the mainland. There was silence as you stepped off the boat onto the monument. Men in gray hair, alone with their thoughts, lean on the rail and peer down to the still-leaking-oil Arizona just a few meters below the water’s surface. Quiet weeping as these same men survey the names of the dead engraved on the wall in the shrine.
It was the most reverent and emotionally charged landmark I’d ever been to. And even though I had no link in my past to any member who perished on that ship, the visit affected me deeply. I left with a new depth of appreciation for our freedoms and a humbling respect for the many who have given their lives so that I can enjoy said freedom.
To all who are serving, I thank you on this Memorial Day. And to any family who has lost a loved one defending our country, my pledge is that I will do my part – as little as it may be – to honor their life with how I live mine. Their sacrifice will not be in vain.
How do you live out your freedom each and every day?
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