Howard O. McGillin, Jr.
Colonel, US Army (Retired)
St Augustine, FL
Memorial Day is the informal start of summer for most Americans. Across the First Coast from Fernandina Beach to Flagler Beach, stores, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions will transition from winter staffing and scheduling to the hustle and bustle of summer. This is a good thing for a nation built on free enterprise.
It is important however to remember – literally to remember – what Memorial Day is really about. America has two great holidays dedicated to those who have served our country in its times of greatest need. We remember our honored dead on Memorial Day and our living Veterans on Veterans Day. How will you honor them?
Memorial Day is the day set aside to pay tribute and to remember the sacrifice, and perhaps more importantly, the service of those who have died in the defense of the United States. These men and women answered the call of their country when war threatened. They gave up their personal freedom and their lives that we might have our freedom and our lives. General George S. Patton, Jr., reportedly once said “[i]t is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived. “Memorial Day therefore is a solemn, but not necessarily somber, day to remember those men and women who served our country at battlefields from the Lexington Green in 1775 to the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan in 2014, and who, ultimately, gave their lives in defense of freedom.
Paying tribute to the honored dead is important. But, as Abraham Lincoln said 101 years ago at Gettysburg, “[i]t is rather for us 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.”
This Memorial Day, Veterans Groups and government leaders will gather at a number of local sites to renew that promise and that dedication and to honor these fallen heroes. Please take a few moments from the barbecues, baseball and beach trips to join in one of these ceremonies. Why don’t you join us?
For those in St. Augustine, there will be a ceremony at the National Cemetery commencing at 10:00 a.m. sponsored by the local chapter of the Military Officers Association of America followed by a re-dedication of the War Memorial in the Plaza de la Constitution.
Local veterans will participate in a “Flags In” activity on Saturday May 24, 2014 to place flags on all of the 1200 graves at St. Augustine National Cemetery starting at 10:00 a.m.
If you cannot participate in a ceremony, we would still recommend that you take a few moments on this long weekend to pause and remember the sacrifices of those who have gone before us. The word “memorare” is the Latin word from which we derive “memorial”. It is a command to “remember” those who have given you and me the freedoms we cherish.