Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For May 23 and 24, 2015
Honor and Remembrance
David W. Hegg
This weekend we pause to honor the memory of those who gave their lives in defense of America during our many armed conflicts. Originally proposed and celebrated in 1868, the day was known as Decoration Day. General John Logan commanded that the day was “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country …” President Lyndon Johnson conferred national holiday status on the day in 1966.
As originally understood, Memorial Day was a solemn occasion primarily taken up with trips to graveyards to stand in thankful remembrance of those who, in Lincoln’s famous words “gave the last full measure of devotion.” It was a day of both praise and prayer, of tears shed and honor displayed, and ultimately of silent promises neither to forget, nor diminish the memory of those who gave their lives to preserve and protect our freedoms.
But things have changed. Today Memorial Day is a time of forays to the beach, back yard barbeques, and slashed prices on everything from cars and appliances to carpet and clothing. Over the years we’ve gone from remembering others to making the most of a day off from work.
Now, I’m not saying time relaxing with family or finding the best deals is wrong. I’m only suggesting that, by shaping the day around our pleasures we’ve slowly drained it of its purpose. Memorial Day is one of the very few opportunities we have to participate in a serious reflection on national honor. It is supposed to wean our minds away from our current enjoyments to remember those whose sacrifice has helped preserve them.
Since the end of the Viet Nam War our society has slowly been eroding its appreciation of honorable self-sacrifice. We’re becoming a society that has trouble thinking seriously about things, and especially the nobility of putting your life on the line for the betterment of our society. Most recently, police officers have been portrayed as the enemy, and their lives have been targeted by those dedicated to chaos and anarchy as a means of putting forth their points of view.
We are on a dangerous path. High regard for those willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect others is waning right before our eyes. When national politicians and high-profile athletes take pleasure in mocking law enforcement and military officers, it certainly is time to rethink our standard of who is worthy of honor.
If we are going to applaud and honor those who throw passes, hit balls, and sink baskets as heroes, how much more those who leave the comforts of home and family, strap on weapons, and put themselves between us and those dedicated to our demise.
So, on Monday as you gather with friends and family to enjoy the day, set aside some time to retell the stories of those who, now gone, gathered up their courage and answered the call of their nation. And offer up some prayer as well for those who are still wearing the uniform. They are, at times, the only thing standing between America and total anarchy, and they deserve our honor, appreciation, and support.
May God bless the families of the fallen, and may God bless America.