Our own poet laureate of Moonhowlings, Captain George Harris, has once again agreed to shared his thoughts with us for this Memorial Day.
MEMORIAL DAY 2015
This year marks the 147th anniversary of the first Memorial Day, known to many as Decoration Day and it is just six weeks past the 150th anniversary of the assassination of the president who led this nation through this great war to knit our nation back together again. This day was originally set aside to decorate the graves of those valiant men who gave their lives in the greatest and most divisive war our nation has ever experienced-our Civil War or as it was known in the Confederate states, the War of Northern Aggression. We have fought many wars since but none as divisive or as malevolent as this war.
The greatest battle of this war was fought on the fields and low hills near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania during the first three days of a hot July, 1863. When the last charge was made and the last shot was fired, some 57,225 soldiers were killed, wounded or captured. A third of General Robert E. Lee’s generals were killed, captured or wounded and the southern forces never really recovered although the war would drag on for nearly two more years. Five months later, November 18, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln joined other luminaries to dedicate the cemetery where the dead of this battle had been laid to rest. It was here he gave perhaps his greatest speech; we know it as The Gettysburg Address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be 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—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.
Today, we find ourselves still engaged in the longest war we have ever witnessed in the 238 years since we declared ourselves a nation. Our enemies are many and while many are in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea they are scattered around the globe and some even attack us or attempt to attack us right here at home. The young men and women of our Armed Forces continue to lay down their lives so, as President Lincoln said, “that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
This war’s legacy is the hundreds of thousands of young men and women who will forever bear the scars of this tragic war. We see them every day, they walk among us or glide past us in wheel chairs and some, because their lives have been shattered beyond our ability to understand, do what the enemy did not do, they destroy themselves-one every 65 minutes of every day.
This war will end someday and perhaps this nation will build a memorial dedicated to all those who gave their lives in this tragic war. But this memorial will be to the dead who have fought their last battle and have been laid to rest for eternity. But what about all those who live on carrying the scars of this war? What about them? They are the legacy of this war, the living reminder of the price of war and they will be with us for many decades. Are they to be forgotten? No, absolutely not. Our duty, as President Lincoln said during his Second Inaugural Address is, “to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
God bless the men and women of our Armed Forces and God bless the United States of America.