Memorial Day takes on a special meaning this year. It has brought with it dark days, foreboding days. However, it is not the only Memorial Day overshadowed by apprehension, uncertainty, fear, and prevailing gloom. May this atmosphere not cause us to forget that in our former difficulties there were challenges that only a special people could overcome. As we compile our death toll caused by COVID-19, remember these bleak former challenges. Remember, too, the challenges caused by these conflicts were more prolonged than ours appear to be.
Our several wars indicate some strategic difficult days.
It is fitting that our nation should pause to remember the countless sons and daughters who at great sacrifice and many at the greatest sacrifices won and preserved our freedoms.
FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR 2,789
WAR OF 1812 2,260
REVOLUTIONARY WAR 25,324
CIVIL WAR 498,334
SPANISH AMERICAN WAR 2,446
WORLD WAR I 116,710
WORLD WAR II 407,376
KOREAN WAR 54,546
VIETNAM WAR 58,098
PERSIAN GULF WAR 146
IRAQ WAR 4,486
AFGHANISTAN WAR 6,800+
Look at just one of those wars in a bit more detail. The World War II campaign in France, Belgium, the Neatherlands and Germany from D-Day through V-E Day cost the Western allied Armies 776,294 casualties. Included in that number were over 200,000 dead. Approximately 60% were Americans. Of the 5,412,219 troops that were landed, the casualty rate was 14.2% or roughly 1 in 7. There were also 50,000 allied civilians killed.
Rudyard Kipling said, “Lord God of hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget.”
As we remember and memorialize those who paid the ultimate price, let’s not fail to honor those who also served and sacrificed.
We honor those who have gone before by striving to preserve and perpetuate the values and virtues for which they gave of themselves while resisting the vices that opposed them. Dare this generation spare itself by not paying the price to champion the good for which others died?
The grief caused by the current virus is not to be diminished by remembering our ominous past. May we so bear ourselves to to our challenge that we honor those who went before. I lived through six of those bleak days of international conflict and vividly remember the fear they engendered. Those who experienced those days suffered no less than we. Yet, they prevailed. They did so because they had a strong inner core. They had a sense of history and a memory of what they came from. Their resilience was a result of having seen both good and bad. It did not result in a whimpering, critical, demeaning our leaders, no complaining about what they didn’t have. They had instead a calm confidence that they could faithfully overcome because they had a faith root. It was nourished by the assurance that wrong would fail and right prevail.
Our present pandemic can refine us and emboldened us and create within us as a society a new heart. May we emerge as a renewed society recommitted to the God who has seen us through the ages.
Not denying the difficulty of our day, we will profit if we remember the blessings of our past and recall the words of the poet George Hebert:
“Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.”