by Colonel Paul Herbert, Executive Director of the First Division Museum
Memorial Day is to honor those who died in military service to our country - people like Samuel T. Watts, 20, of Wheaton, Illinois, who died May 19, 2012, of wounds sustained in combat in Afghanistan.
I think we should remember each of them as a distinct person, equally entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Each put that at risk for us - their loss was of a future, of hopes, plans and dreams once held.
We should remember their families and friends, who sometimes grieve forever and often feel guilt we can’t assuage. Could I have prevented his death? What if I had insisted that he not go? Should I have gone in his place?
We should remember that they were not "sacrificed." On the contrary, someone hoped and prayed and longed for the safe return of each. Each died in faith in us that his (or her) service, with all its dangers, was necessary. As Abraham Lincoln said so well, we cannot add or detract from the honor they paid us by such faith.
We should carry them in our hearts forever. We should gather occasionally to honor them. Mostly, we should live our lives with gratitude, and build lives and families and communities and a country worthy of their faithful service. Lincoln reminded us that from our honored dead, it is for us, the living, to be consecrated to the great tasks remaining
before us. We have such tasks.
We should conclude a Memorial Day as Lincoln concluded:
"We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."