What mean these stones?

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“And [Joshua] spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know…” [1]

This passage to me embodies Memorial Day. It is a time for us to gather as a nation and remember those who have gone before us so that “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.” [2]

On this day we remember, we must also be challenged. The fight this nation has endured for its creation and prosperity is not over.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. [3]

As John Kennedy reminds us:

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge–and more. [4]

I leave you today with the closing words of a speech President Ronald Reagan delivered on June 6, 1984. It was the fortieth anniversary of D-Day.

We are bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We’re bound by reality. The strength of America’s allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe’s democracies. We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”

Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all. [5]

I hope you and your family have a very happy Memorial Day. But, I also hope you take a moment on this day to remember.

References:

  1. Joshua 4:21-22b (KJV)
  2. Lincoln, Abraham. “Gettysburg Address.” Avalon Project. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/gettyb.asp (accessed May 27, 2012).
  3. Reagan, Ronald. The Quotations Page. http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/33739.html (accessed May 27, 2012).
  4. Kennedy, John. “Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy.” Avalon Project. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/kennedy.asp (accessed May 27, 2012).
  5. Reagan, Ronald. “On the 40th Anniversary of D-Day.” The History Place. http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/reagan-d-day.htm (accessed May 27, 2012).

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