The Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is our nation’s commemoration of the sacrifices made by those whose lives were lost for the freedoms we hold sacred.

Whether our veterans survived their military service, or were killed on the field of battle, our country owes each of them, and their families, a debt of gratitude.

As we look back at the wars proposed by presidents, declared by Congress, and supported to varying degrees by our citizens, let’s remember that none of these conflicts were or, to this day, are immune from political and social controversy.

But we should never confuse debate over military policy with the need to be respectful of those whose lives are at risk on the battlefield, in the air, or on the seas.

Our nation has been the destination of choice for great waves of immigrants from the world’s most frightening and repressive nations.  Perhaps your family has its story of freedom-seeking relatives.

Be very conscious of the history of our African-American neighbors whose ancestors came shackled in the holds of slave ships, and Native-Americans whose ancestors were slaughtered or subjected to racist cruelties.

As Americans we should know our own history and should passionately advocate so that the children of all families can enjoy the opportunity to be free from the threats of injustice, oppression and terror.

Our freedoms were earned, bled for, and in many cases, died for.

Memorial Day presents the chance to gather our thoughts and honor the military service of our parents and grandparents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins.

These individuals either volunteered or drafted, wore the uniform of our armed forces, and gave all or a portion of their lives in service to our nation and its allies.

In honor of those we’ve lost, let’s not be passive about the importance of their sacrifice.  In their honor, let’s pledge to participate in the following advocacy activities:

  • Register, vote, and urge others to do the same. Democracy demands dedication and active participation!
  • Actively communicate with our elected officials about issues affecting families, including military families and people with special challenges. Remember, our elected officials work for us!
  • Share your thoughts in the media by writing letters to the editor and interviewing with reporters. Media is our most cost-effective megaphone.
  • Motivate youth to exercise their voice in matters which affect them. The next generation of advocates needs good role models.
  • Confront those who think that complaining about problems is sufficient. Whining is not as good as winning! Silence is not golden when there are wrongs to be corrected.
  • Honor community leadership and promote active involvement by family members, friends, colleagues and neighbors as volunteers, whom I call “time philanthropists.”
  • Support causes which focus on advocating positive change, prevention policies and innovative program. Spectatorism doesn’t produce progress.

In honor of the fallen, let’s recommit to a brighter future for all generations.

Excerpts taken from author Jack Levine, Founder, 4Generations Institute

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