Our duty is to always remember

Published 4:08 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2018

This coming weekend marks the official beginning of summer. School is closing while swimming pools are opening. We are packing bags for camps and long-planned vacations. Jasmine and honeysuckle sweeten the air and gardens dot the landscape with growing vegetables, fruits and flowers.   

The beginning of summer is always a joyous event. Memorial Day weekend sparks barbeques, kids squealing in delight and mom’s and dad’s everywhere enjoying a Monday holiday. However, while we laugh and play there is a soldier somewhere who is fighting on a battlefield for all of us to continue to do so.

When I pause to remember the many brave men and women who have died for me to be able to write freely, to freely wave a flag, to openly pray, to freely vote, and to be free from tyranny, I am humbled, and I need to be. We all do.

Sometimes we all act spoiled taking for granted the freedoms we enjoy.  Sometimes we are plain bratty and thankless. This weekend we will raise our flags in front of our homes while continuing a petty fight with our neighbors. We will not remember the 1.1 million American soldiers who died on the battlefield and whose fights were far from petty.

While we scream at the folks who pulled into the parking place we were waiting on at the mall, we will not remember those who screamed in pain on the beaches, in the rice paddies, the deserts, the mountains, the fields and islands where bravery spilled over the earth.  Their screams should still pierce our hearts and ring in our ears.

While we pack for our vacations to France, Belgium, the Philippines, Panama, Italy, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Tunisia and the United Kingdom, we will not focus on the over 130,000 soldiers buried in cemeteries on these foreign lands. Nor will we focus on more than 124,000 soldiers who are still missing.

While we get ready to go to Aunt June’s to eat watermelon and pick summer vegetables, we will not be thinking of the battle fought on the once blood-soaked land around her house during the civil war. 

When we see our flag flying on this Memorial Day, are we going to remember the 50,000 soldiers who died, were maimed or wounded during the fight for our independence in the American Revolution?

During a summer evening, we will take our children to the theaters to see Iron Man, Thor, Black Panther and all those terrific fictional heroes fight for their planets and its people. Will we also remember to tell our children that the real heroes are those who wore the uniform of the American soldier who died for the United States and its people?

While we play with our children in the summer sun, will we think about the mother viewing the flag-draped coffin of her son or the father who died in combat before he could meet his new daughter? 

Perhaps, it is right or reasonable for us to not dwell on such sadness as the fallen hero. Maybe it is right for us to laugh, love, to dispute, honk our horns and watch Iron Man. For it is the soldier who died and did so for us to continue to live in the land where the beginning of summer is a joyous event. 

Understanding the fallen soldier is so eloquently written in this poem from long ago:

“And when the wind in the tree-tops roared,

The soldier asked from the deep dark grave:

“Did the banner flutter then?”

“Not so, my hero,” the wind replied.

“The fight is done, but the banner won,

Thy comrades of old have borne it hence,

Have borne it in triumph hence.”

Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:

“I am content.”

Then he heareth the lovers laughing pass,

and the soldier asks once more:

“Are those not the voices of them that love,

That love — and remember me?”

“Not so, my hero,” the lovers say,

“We are those that remember not;

For the spring has come and the earth has smiled,

And the dead must be forgot.”

Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:

“I am content.”

From: The Soldier on the Battlefield, author unknown

It was their duty, their honor, and their courage to give.  It is our duty to the fallen soldiers always to remember just who they were and why.