What We Memorialize

Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For May 28 Weekender, 2016

What We Memorialize

David W. Hegg

On this Memorial Weekend we pause to “memorialize” those who gave their lives in military service to the United States of America. They joined, trained, and went in our place and for our benefit, adding the currency of their lives to the ongoing payment demanded for our liberty. 

But, while the hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, and ribs are sizzling on the barbeque, take time to consider just what we are memorializing. What is it about these brave men and women who died in American uniforms that merits a day of reflection and gratitude? Here are a few suggestions for your consideration.

They understood privilege does not negate responsibility. It once was understood that “from those to whom much is given, much is expected.” In years gone by many left their “privileged” positions to defend the good life they and others had come to enjoy, by donning their country’s uniform. They did not allow comfort and convenience to keep them from doing the right thing for God and country. What we could say is their foundational ethic did not place personal wealth and success above the wellbeing of their neighbors. When the call came to bear arms against those who would destroy life and liberty, they answered it out of a deep-seated passion to do what was right.

They went, knowing the path of truth and honor would be extremely difficult … and they went anyway. More and more we are living in a society that considers the easiest path the best path. When we are inconvenienced, we express outrage. When our rights are stepped on, we cry out. And when someone else offends us, we scream, yell, and too often litigate. We have become a nation of crybabies always on the lookout for an issue over which to vent our supercilious disdain.

Those we memorialize today looked hardship, deprivation, fear, and even death in the face, and went anyway. As my father would have said, they had moxie. They had grit. At the core of their souls they were tough, having stood up to, and battled through life challenges already. They knew how to work hard, to keep going when things got bad. They kept running when weary, and when they did fail, they didn’t blame it on anyone else. These were the men and women who, understanding their future was shrouded with the unknown, packed up their courage and said “I’ll go where America needs me.”

They understood the welfare of the many as more important than their own. Today we are witnessing the rise of individualism at a pace unknown in our country. We are fast becoming a nation of selfish, pragmatic individuals so intent on personal success and satisfaction that the ethic of looking out for the other guy has become a thing of derision. We think of ourselves, first, foremost, and finally, and frankly, it is killing us.

Those we remember this Memorial weekend surely had plans and dreams, but not at the expense of the call to love their neighbors. They knew they were part of something bigger than themselves, and when that something needed defending, they moved to do it with honor out of a deep sense of duty and love for America’s ideals.

They understood each individual and each generation must do their part to uphold the ideals and foundational values of America. And herein lies the greatest lesson we can learn. We memorialize those who died in service to us because it is their courage and loyalty to the fundamental ideals upon which America has always stood that have given us the privileges we enjoy today. They believed in something real and honorable, and they put their lives on the line to defend those beliefs, even to the point of death.

And so, as we remember, and reflect, and thank our God for those who gave the last full measure of devotion, we also must consider what our God is asking of us. May this Memorial weekend be a time of gratitude and remembrance, and corporate thanksgiving for God’s blessings. But may we also consider the part we all play in being a people, and a country, that can truly warrant his continued blessing. Happy Memorial Day!