Skip to comments.Learning the meaning of Memorial Day
Posted on 05/30/2010 4:08:45 PM PDT by lightman
Learning the meaning of Memorial Day
Updated: 05/28/2010 03:19:06 PM EDT
How does one measure the value of freedom? I began to learn the answer to this question as a teen, and in the strangest of places.
Growing up in New Freedom, I belonged to the town's drum corps. It was a given that whenever the town had an event, the drum corps would perform. Such was the case every year on the last Monday in May.
We'd get into formation in the church parking lot on the edge of town, the drum corps, antique cars, the Boy Scouts, a few floats and dignitaries. As the parade starts, the drum corps leads the way banging out a half-hearted cadence played by half-hearted teenagers who are all thinking, "This is going to be a long afternoon."
Making matter worse, as we approach the main road that leads to the town square, we turn and head away from town. A hundred yards down the road, the drums become silent and the lead drummer plays a somber tap, tap, tap as the parade procession enters the town cemetery.
We pass row after row of grave markers along the narrow road. Here is the final resting place for many who have called this town "home" over the past 200 years.
And this teenager, for one, would rather be anywhere else.
We approach a white concrete stage in the middle of a circle drive. In front of the stage, a flagpole stands. We come to a halt, but are not allowed to break rank. There we stand, in the hot noonday sun, waiting. We dare not move. We remain at attention for what seems like an eternity while beads of sweat sting our Advertisement eyes.
Finally, there they are, approaching the stage. Veterans of foreign wars.
Some walk, some hobble, some are wheeled, others are helped along by a son or daughter. They wear faded uniforms of various colors. Leading them is a small group of veterans carrying rifles, the color guard, and one veteran, in the center, gently carrying a folded American flag.
It's silent. Not even their footsteps are heard on the soft grass.
With precision and poise, a few of the men carefully unfold the flag. There's a somber look on their faces. Slowly, they raise the flag against the deep blue sky; the breeze quietly waves its Stars and Stripes.
The soldiers step back, raise their heads skyward, and remove their hats. We do the same.
Without being told, we all place our hands over our hearts and repeat aloud the Pledge of Allegiance.
Finally, the drum major allows us to parade rest -- but the color guard stands at attention on either side of the flagpole: feet together, chin up, eyes straight ahead as if looking at something far off in the distant past. I know now few of us have seen what they have -- and few of us would ever want to.
There's a shuffling of chairs on stage as people take their seats.
The program begins. Prayers are offered. Speeches made. Scripture read.
And then the Sergeant of Arms commands, "Attention!" We're snapped back to consciousness.
All present are instructed to rise. Our drum major calls us to attention. We, along with the veterans, salute.
And then, the reading of the list begins . . ..
Name, rank, birth date, wars fought, medals earned, and . . . date of death. It's a list of those soldiers from the area who were alive for this ceremony last year, but who now lie buried somewhere in this cemetery. Each one is mentioned. Each one honored. Each one remembered.
And then it hits me -- this is important. These aren't just names; they're somebody's dad, somebody's grandpa, and somebody's neighbor. I've only read about what they accomplished. They fought in the trenches in World War I, suffered on the beaches in World War II; they braved the battles in Korea and the jungles of Vietnam. They left family. Friends. Loved-ones. They went. They served. They bled. They died.
This is no ordinary parade. This is no ordinary day -- and these are no ordinary people. This is special.
The last name on the list is read. From across the cemetery comes the faint sound of "Taps" played by a lone trumpeter. At its conclusion, we jump from the concussion of the rifles fired in unison.
And with that, the ceremony ends. The veterans shuffle off the stage, the color guard breaks rank. Some of the soldiers get into cars, but others choose to lead the parade on foot.
The lead drummer again plays the somber three-tap cadence until we reach the main road.
But oh, when we hit the main road, we light into our cadence, the same one we played earlier, but this time it sounds different -- because it is different. It's spirited. Powerful. Passionate.
We march through town with heads held high as if we were accompanying the greatest men who ever lived, honored beyond words that we could be a part of their parade.
We break rank in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars building. We enter to find waiting for us what is there every year: An unlimited supply of fresh doughnuts and ice-cold Coca-Cola.
And who should greet us as we enter the building? Who is serving the doughnuts ? Who's handing out the Cokes?
And I'm honored to be in their presence.
"That's the best I've ever heard you boys play," one veteran mentions. And I'm sure that day he was right.
"Thank you, sir," I tell him.
Looking back on those days, I wish I had said more, much more. Thank you for your service. For your valor. Your sacrifice. Your gift to every American. Thank you for paying the price.
It's been three decades since I spent those hot afternoons in New Freedom's cemetery on the last Monday of May. But that's where I learned important lessons about the value of freedom. I know now that freedom isn't found in a laundry list of things we can do or say. I know now the value of freedom is measured by the number of those who have been willing -- and even now -- the number of those who are willing to pay the price to both earn that freedom and protect it. Our freedom is not free at all; it comes at a great price.
How much more when we consider the freedom we have in Christ Jesus! It, too, came at a great price. And because Jesus paid it all, those who trust in Him never have to see the atrocities of war He saw, or fight the enemy like He did. Our past is forgiven. Our future is secure. And one day, when the roll is called, the names of God's chosen will be found in the Book of Life, written in the blood of a fearless Warrior who knows what real freedom looks like.
Dave Shultz was raised in New Freedom where his parents, Gary and Ruth, still live. Today, he lives in Newark, Del., with his wife, Karlisa, and daughters, Karlyn and Kayla. He is a 1983 graduate of Susquehannock High School.
My wife's great-grandfather, a Civil War Veteran and surivor of the infamous Andersonville prison, is among those interred at this cemetery.
New Freedom is located on the Mason-Dixon line, may be of interest to Marylanders.
The final paragraph is truly outstanding...and a somewhat of a miracle in that it survived the editor’s pen.
Thanks for sharing the article and for pinging me!
Just two generations ago it was better understood that the freedom we have in the United States came directly from Jesus Christ. Because the US was founded on God-given principles and values, to a certain degree faithfulness to the US was indirect faithfulness to God. As society's values change, and as the people's expectations of what government changes, reliance on our government is no longer correlated with a reliance on God. We still can be very proud of, and grateful for, the servicemen that have provided us with freedom from foreign invaders but we must not forget that their duty and service is a gift to all of us from God. Not only is it a good time to read what our founding fathers wrote about freedom, but it is even more imperative to review those documents they read that made them realize that freedom is a gift from God.
The entire piece is excellent. It reminds me of our small-town Memorial Day parade, that ends at our local cemetery a few blocks away. Our American Legion post is actively involved.
In honor of Memorial Day.
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