27 May Memorial Day, Lest we forget
In one of the most poignant and cherished letters in the history of the United States, is a letter penned by President Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow living in Boston, Massachusetts. The following is a transcript of the letter:
Washington, November 21, 1864
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which would attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
Seventy-seven years after the end of the Civil War, and in response to the death of their sister’s boyfriend at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, enlisted in the United States Navy on January 3, 1942. They enlisted with the stipulation that they serve together. All five were assigned to the light cruiser USS Juneau. On November 13, 1942, a Japanese submarine torpedoed the Juneau. All five brothers were killed.
I have had the great privilege of visiting many American military cemeteries, one of which was in Coleville-Sur-Mer, France, where 9300 servicemen are buried, men who gave their lives during and shortly after the D-Day invasion. I have visited the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the Punchbowl Cemetery (also in Honolulu, Hawaii), where servicemen are interred who fell victim to the surprise attack on December 7, 1941. I will tell you what all of these cemeteries and war memorials have in common: they are sacred. There is a feeling of solemn reverence there, a feeling of respect and honor.
I could not help but weep over the graves of these soldiers thinking that these were someone’s sons, someone’s brothers, someone’s husbands, someone’s fathers, someone’s sweethearts. These honored dead gave the last full measure of devotion to fight against tyranny and anarchy and uphold freedom. And when I see our flag, I think, “That is the most beautiful flag in the world, not because of how it looks, but because of what it means.”
My mother-in-law recently forwarded me an email which honors the importance of Memorial Day. It reads:
It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the veteran, not the politician who has given us the right to vote.
I am thankful for our armed forces. I am thankful for those who gave their lives. I am thankful for those who fought. I am thankful for those who continue to fight so that the freedom may never die.