by Terri Winder
“Remember,” the man at the pulpit in church said, “tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day when we honor members of the military who have served our country.
“America was born because there were those who were willing to go to war – and give their lives, if necessary – in order to gain independence.
“America has become the great nation it is because of those who have been willing to go to war – and give their lives, if necessary – in order to maintain those values upon which this country was based.
“It has remained free because of our armed forces: the men and women who are willing to give whatever it takes to not only defend our freedoms and values, but to extend those rights to others.”
I did not know the speaker and he did not know me; I was a visitor in the congregation, simply passing through. I was on my way to Ft. Bragg, NC, to participate in a very personal memorial service, one which would recognize members of the Special Forces Green Berets who had given their lives for their country during the previous year.
The speaker could not know there was a gold star mother in the audience, silently thanking him for his acknowledgment of the sacrifices of the men and women in our armed forces.
His words reminded me of a quote by John Stuart Mill I recently read and have pondered since: “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.
“The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
It is words like these that give me consolation in my loss and fill me with gratitude rather than regret. There are worse things than death and war.
Perhaps this is the message we should contemplate on Memorial Day, we who walk among the headstones of those who have gone before.
If there is nothing in our lives for which we are willing to die, then perhaps we are not truly living.