It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that 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, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
These words spoken by Abraham Lincoln almost 150 years ago still ring true with power today. For the past 235 years men and women have stepped forward and laid their lives down to the cause of the noble democratic experiment called the United States. Same call it a sacrifice, but it is much more than that…Lincoln’s phrase “last full measure of devotion” strikes most truly to me. Soldiers don’t sign up to die for their country, they don’t sign up to die for their unit, or their buddies…but die they do, for it is demanded of soldiers to die.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Yes, soldiers die because war is the extension of diplomacy by other means…they die because of blunders…they die even when everything goes right. They die so that we can enjoy the blessings of liberty, blessings that we don’t always appreciate.
Recently our small city had an election, only 519 people voted (in a city with roughly 9-10 thousand registered voters). More than that turned out for the rally for the football team as they went off to play in the state championship game.
But all is not grim. Be it for a single day, we try and honor those who secured our liberty with that last full measure…who did not reason why, but did and died…so that we may be free…even if it is free to be apathetic.
So, I have enjoyed my day bought with the blood of men the like of Marine 2LT James Cathey whom I read about in 2005. If you have not read his story Final Salute, please do so…it is one of the most moving stories I have read.
This photo and another from the story won a Pulitzer prize for photojournalism.
As I said, I have enjoyed my day off from work. I spend some time this day thinking of Soldiers like Lt Caffey, Lt Daniel Riordan, LTC Eric Kruger, and more than I can ever list here. I was lucky to never have to fight, and lucky that my Father came through WWII and Korea. That my Father-In-Law served safely as well. I hope that my memorial…to live…honors their lives spent for my freedom…and if it does not, then I am sorry.