In 1968, a young Marine Lance Corporal named Stephen Daniel took a few minutes to mourn his friend who he lost in battle the night before in the jungles of Vietnam. The Lance Corporal wrote home to his parents the following night:
Mom and Dad: Last night one more Marine died. No one will ever hear or care about it except his parents and us. There is no nation to mourn for him or fly our flag at half-mast. Yet this Marine did more for his country than any President or Senator ever did. His name was Corporal Lee Clark.
Just a few years after L.Cpl. Daniel lost his friend, Cpl. Clark, in battle, the U.S. Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971. Part of this act set Memorial Day to be observed as the last Monday in May rather than on a particular date on the calendar and with its passage Congress did little more than to create a national three-day weekend. In its 2002 Memorial Day address, the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated:
 "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."
Unfortunately, I believe the VFW is right on the mark. While several towns still observe this day of remembrance, many towns and communities have lost their traditional Memorial Day parades to history. Many young people fail to recognize the ultimate sacrifices that American men and women have made during some of the most uncertain times in our nations history. Ironically, thousands of youths will take this day off from school only to sit inside all day and play video games such as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty without ever having someone explain to them what those words really mean. 
By noon on Memorial Day, many people will have spent countless hours and even days planning some type of get-together for their family, friends or co-workers complete with BBQ and lemonade to enjoy as their kids play games in the yard. Many people will enjoy this time with their families and they will be sure to mention a soldier or Marine they know of that didn’t make it home but many others will only think about having a good time. 
"Ironically, thousands of youths will take this day off from school only to sit inside all day and play video games such as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty without ever having someone explain to them what those words actually mean. "
This Memorial Day, please take a moment, not just to think about someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but to talk about someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Mention to your kids that the reason the school closed down for a day was so they could have time to remember the kids whose father was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.  We all need to do what we can to protect the sanctity of Memorial Day; to remember that it has more to do with body bags than BBQ. While we are getting together with some of your friends, lets have enough courage to mention the courage of those 18 year olds who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom to enjoy a day off in their honor. 
Many people have personally known someone who has paid for our freedom with their life however; I would say that most Americans haven’t had the honor. If you don’t personally know of anyone that you can specifically remember on Memorial Day, lets do L.Cpl. Daniel a favor and remember his buddy Cpl. Lee Clark. Lets think about what L.Cpl. Daniel must have gone through and then think about how hard it must have been for Cpl. Clarks family the moment they received the news that there young son was killed by the enemy half-way around the world while he fought for his life and the life of his Marines. Then remember that these Marines and there families aren’t alone.  Let’s not let these heroic deeds go without showing some degree of gratitude; lets be sure to demonstrate our gratefulness. 

U.S. Air Force Colonel, Walter Hitchcock said it best when he coined the term “Freedom isn’t free.” We have been blessed in America but it has cost our fighting men and their families dearly. To say that freedom isn’t free would also imply that it costs us each something as well. I suppose that if we only depended on the acts of others to keep us free without any sacrifice of our own then our freedom would be free but since freedom “isn’t” free, I would have to ask what have we done, as individuals, for the security of our liberty.  Can we honestly say that we have completed the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers to ensure they didn’t give their life in vain? I would argue that each American has a profound duty to guard our freedom however we are able. Whether its working on campaigns or as an activist for some important issue or by showing up on election day to choose your leaders, we all have a responsibility to fight for freedom at home also. Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “All gave some, some gave all” but would it be a terrible thing for us to let the greatness of our country slip away, little by little, election after election, only to have some of Americas bravest and youngest have given all for nothing? It is no small weight of responsibility that we bear, as Americans, to ensure that we complete the sacrifices made by our fallen countrymen. 

Picture2nd Lt. Cathey and Cpl. Tremblay
It is incumbent on us to remember that the purpose of our entire government is to help keep us free, the military shares this responsibility at the risk of life and limb. Let us at home support and defend the Constitution that they swore an oath to support and defend. Two of my friends and Marine Corps brothers were killed in action in Iraq. I served with them both back in the early 2000s. I want to thank them both, 2nd Lt. Cathey and Cpl Tremblay, I miss them and I am honored to have known them and to have served with them and I will never forget what they have done for myself and my fellow Americans and I promise that I will do my best to complete the sacrifice they have made and I will always fight for the freedom of the people and for the security of their liberty.

 
Picture
Five Marines and a Navy Corpsman Raise the Flag on Iwo Jima

I was asked to speak at an event to address a group of veterans to honor their service to our country, I did not know until later that I was asked to speak only because their first speaker had health issues that prevented him from attending. After I finished my talk and shook a few hands I found out just who I had “replaced.” The man that was supposed to address the veterans was an 87 year old veteran himself but he had just suffered a stroke and was now doing his best to recover in the care of a nursing home. He served as a U.S. Marine in the Pacific during World War II and fought his way through battle after bloody battle.  This Marine veteran fought his way to the top of Mt. Suribachi and was one of the few who had a first hand account of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. Amazing, the most copied, distributed and viewed photograph in the world was the flag raising on Iwo Jima and this man was part of the battle to bring the flag to the top of the mountain. Believe me, I would have much rather had the honor of listening to him that night. I was immediately overwhelmed; it was humbling to say the least.

This man is not just special because of where he fought; he is special because of why he fought. The American veteran is not just special but also extremely unique. They are the first in the history of the world to do something that until 1775, the rest of the world could have only dreamed of.  Throughout world history, armies have come and gone and it doesn’t matter if they were rebelling slaves in ancient Rome or the feared elite Spartan warriors from ancient Sparta- none of them hold a candle anywhere near the American veteran. What sets the American veteran apart has nothing to do with the uniform they wore, the gear they packed or the ammunition they used. It has everything to do why they fought.

Prior to 1775, men were called into battle for many different reasons but mostly at the pleasure of their king or something similar, but in 1776 a revolution of ideas took place and for the first time in the history of the world,  men would take up arms for the security of their liberty and the liberty of their neighbors. They would fight because they believed that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that governments and militaries are in place to protect our liberty.  They took this belief, their gun and our flag into battle and they fought for
us.  Lord G.K. Chesterton once wrote that the definition of courage involves a contradiction in terms; he said that courage is having a desire to live that is so unbelievably strong that a person is actually willing to die fighting for life. I read this and thought about how appropriate this definition is as to why we celebrate and honor our veterans on Veterans Day; because as Americans, we understand and we remember that we have men and women who’s desire to keep us free is so unbelievably strong that they are willing to die for that freedom. This is why the American veteran is special. This is why every single one of them deserves our respect and our admiration and just a simple thank you to them is quite literally the very least we can do to show our appreciation.

Please take every opportunity you can to thank veterans for their service. There will come a time in the not too distant future when we will not be able to thank them anymore. That Marine who fought his way up Mt. Suribachi and witnessed the flag raising will not be with us forever, in fact, it won’t be long now until no one will ever be able to thank him again.  They are all special and they are all unique. When we consider the blessings that God has poured out on our nation, we would be missing the most spectacular blessing of all to not realize that someone would be
willing to lay down their life for our freedom. The only word I can honestly think of to describe someone like this is amazing, God bless them all.