There is an old Indian proverb that is perhaps my favorite when word reaches me than a man or a woman in uniform perished in combat. On this day where we honor those who died while defending our country’s freedom, I am always reminded, “Good men must die, but death cannot take their names.” Any one who has ever stood post, knows well of the huge risks, the God-wretched intangibles that occur on almost every mission, and the heroes that somehow – and in the twinkling of an eye – emerge to make the ultimate sacrifice for you and me.
Oh mercy, at how many funerals for true warriors have I heard the words, “The lieutenant died doing what he wanted to do.” That’s harsh, yet it is very true, so let me veer away from those who sleep on or near battlefields, and share a story that explains why our Armed Forces defend not just our nation but faceless people who they will likely never meet or come to know.
Too often we know nothing about them. But then, there is this:
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‘BE THERE … STAY”
A nurse took the tired, anxious Marine to the bedside.
“Your son is here,” she said to the old man.
She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened.
Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.
The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine … sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man’s hand, and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile.
He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital – the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.
Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.
Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited.
Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her.
“Who was that man?” he asked. The nurse was startled, “He was your father,” she answered.
“No, he wasn’t,” the Marine replied. “I never saw him before.”
“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?”
“I knew there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son wasn’t here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed.”
The next time someone needs you, be there.
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BLESSED MEMORIAL DAY
First, you never, ever, say “Happy Memorial Day.” That’s like saying “Happy Martin Luther King Day.” It is simply not fitting. The folks at Dictionary.com suggest, “Have a thoughtful Memorial Day.” Huffpost suggests, “I hope you have a nice weekend … please remember to pause and, and add your thanks to our fallen …”
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75 EXPERT VOICES ON MEMORIAL DAY
1. “Here men endured that a nation might live.” —Herbert Hoover
2. “What I can do for my country, I am willing to do.” —Christopher Gadsden
3. “Heroism doesn’t always happen in a burst of glory. Sometimes small triumphs and large hearts change the course of history.” —Mary Roach
4. “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” —Adlai Stevenson II
5. “Memorial Day this year is especially important as we are reminded almost daily of the great sacrifices that the men and women of the Armed Services make to defend our way of life.” —Robin Hayes
6. “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt
7. “The brave die never, though they sleep in dust, their courage nerves a thousand living men.” —Minot J. Savage
8. “Freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt
9. “On Memorial Day, I don’t want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live.” —Eric Burdon
10. “A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” —Bob Dylan
11. “Their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored.” —Daniel Webster
12. “We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.” —Theodore Roosevelt
13. “Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay.” —Barack Obama
14. “Memorial Day remains one of America’s most cherished patriotic observances. The spirit of this day has not changed—it remains a day to honor those who died defending our freedom and democracy.” —Doc Hastings
15. “You will never do anything in this world without courage.” —Aristotle
16. “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” —Joseph Campbell
17. “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” —Nathan Hale
18. “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” —John F. Kennedy
19. “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” —George Washington
20. “May Heaven be propitious (promising) and smile on the cause of my country.” —Zebulon Pike
21. “There’s intense national feeling in America that could be called patriotism.” —Michael Ignatieff
22. “Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory there would be no civilization, no future.” —Elie Wiesel
23. “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” —Winston Churchill
24. “May we never forget freedom isn’t free.” —Unknown
25. “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.” —George S. Patton
26. “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.” —Norman Schwarzkopf
27. “I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.” —Marcus Luttrell
29. “So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good.” —Helen Keller
30. “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” —Joseph Campbell
31. “Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay.”- Barack Obama
32. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
33. “Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion.”- Calvin Coolidge
34. “Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.”- Theodore Roosevelt
35. “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”- Franklin D. Roosevelt
36. “No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.”- General Douglas MacArthur
37. “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.”- Eleanor Roosevelt
38. “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”- Joseph Campbell
39. “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”- Winston Churchill
40. “The patriot’s blood is the seed of freedom’s tree.” -Thomas Campbell
41. “Home of the free, because of the brave.” – Unknown
42. “To those in uniform serving today and to those who have served in the past, we honor you today and every day.”- Unknown
43. “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”- Norman Schwarzkopf
44. “The brave die never, though they sleep in dust, their courage nerves a thousand living men.”- Minot J. Savage
45. “May we never forget freedom isn’t free.”- Unknown
46. “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”- James Allen
47. “Veterans are a symbol of what makes our nation great, and we must never forget all they have done to ensure our freedom.”- Rodney Frelinghuysen
48. “Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.”- Unknown
49. “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”- George S. Patton
50. “The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.”- Benjamin Disraeli
51. “For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”- James A. Garfield
52. “Who kept the faith and fought the fight; The glory theirs, the duty ours.”- Wallace Bruce
53. “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”- Elmer Davis
54. “Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude must be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.”- Jennifer M. Granholm
55. “Heroism doesn’t always happen in a burst of glory. Sometimes small triumphs and large hearts change the course of history.”- Mary Roach
56. “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”- Sun Tzu
57. “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”- G.K. Chesterson
58. “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”- Adlai Stevenson II
59. “And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier’s tomb, and beauty weeps the brave.”- Joseph Rodman Drake
60. “America without her soldiers would be like God without His angels.”- Claudia Pemberton
61. “So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good.”- Helen Keller
62. “Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory there would be no civilization, no future.”- Elie Wisel
63. “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” – Adlai Stevenson
64. “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.”- Charles de Gaulle
65. “I believe our flag is more than just cloth and ink. It is a universally recognized symbol that stands for liberty, and freedom. It is the history of our nation, and it’s marked by the blood of those who died defending it.”- John Thune
66. “The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.”- Jeff Miller
67. “I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism.”- Bob Riley
68. “There is nothing nobler than risking your life for your country.”- Nick Lampson
69. “Over all our happy country – over all our Nation spread, is a band of noble heroes– is our Army of the Dead.”- Will Carleton
70. “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”- John F. Kennedy
71. “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”- Martin Luther King Jr
72. “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”- Nathan Hale
73. “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America.”- William J. Clinton
74. “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”- Mark Twain
75. “What I can do for my country, I am willing to do.”- Christopher Gadsen
… and why 75? Today is the 75th Anniversary of V-E Day, “’Victory in Europe,’ that ended World War II in the European Theater.