The Memorial Day weekend is over, the grills are cool, the boardwalk quiet, and the kids are back in school. The meaning of Memorial Day often gets lost among the hot dogs, burgers and plant sales, so it’s important to remind ourselves that more than 1.3 million men and women died in service to our nation from the Revolutionary War to this moment.
And did you also know May 30th was the original day to honor those members of the U.S. armed forces who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy today? It wasn’t until 1968 that Congress gave us the three-day weekend; therefore, Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May.
I’d like to share a speech delivered at a soldier’s reunion in 1876 by Robert G. Ingersoll, Civil War veteran, lawyer, political leader, and orator. In it, Ingersoll pays tribute to those at rest and what their sacrifice has meant to us: Liberty, freedom, and honor.
In Ingersoll’s words: “These heroes are dead. They died for liberty – they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines.
They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest. Earth may run red with other wars – they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.
I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead: cheers for the living; tears for the dead.” –PW