Everyone seems to be busy with family and friends this weekend, but I thought it was important to take some time to say a little about Memorial Day. Over the last decade, Memorial Day was often overlooked with the barbecues and summer festivities, but since this new war began it is more important than ever that we take a break and stop to remember those who gave their lives so we could live free.
I was pleased to watch the dedication of the national World War II Memorial on Saturday. I remember the first time I went to Washington and wondered why there was no memorial for the Second World War. That war made the world and the United States what they are today and the victory in that war was one of the greatest triumphs of the American people, and I'm happy to see a memorial dedicated to the men who sacrificed everything that we might be the country we are today. I was especially impressed with President Bush's remarks and how he subtly but crucially reminded us of the important parallels with our current struggle.
On this Memorial Day, as President Bush said, "we acknowledge a debt of long-standing to an entire generation of Americans: those who died; those who fought and worked and grieved and went on. They saved our country, and thereby saved the liberty of mankind."
Of course, Memorial Day is for all those who died in service of our country. From Washington's soldiers freezing in Valley Forge, to the men in Fort McHenry who inspired Francis Scott Key, to the men who fought to make Texas pert of the United States, to the soldiers at Antietem, Gettysburg, Shiloh and Vicksburg, to the men who made Teddy Roosevelt's victory at San Juan Hill possible, to the boys who went "over there" to fight "In Flanders Fields," to the heroes of Pearl Harbor, the stubborn defenders of Bataan, the dedicated men who won the Battle of Midway, stormed ashore in North Africa, sacrificed at Tarawa, held on at Anzio, and kept Britain alive in the North Atlantic, the men who braved the hell of D-Day, who opened the Burma Road, who flew with courage over Frankfurt, Rabaul, and Tokyo, who saved the Philippines, liberated France and Italy, and braved the horrors of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, to the men in the Pusan pocket, those who endured the North Korean winter and the South Vietnamese summer, to the unsung sacrifices of every deployment from Beirut to Kosovo and finally, to the men and women who have given their live sin Iraq and Afghanistan that we may continue to be free. They are the successors to a great history of bravery and service, and we owe them our thanks and our prayers.
Try as I might, though, I can never say about our soldiers what needs to be said as well as Abraham Lincoln did on a November day in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Enduring and ever-appropriate, that speech remains one of the greatest speeches ever written: powerful, poignant, yet succinct. It is, in my mind, the perfect speech, and I turn to it often, as I will here:
...in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate we cannot consecrate we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that 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 this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from this earth.