You know something... When I was studying law, and Mr. Keefer here was writing his stories, and you, Willie, were tearing up the playing fields of dear old Princeton, who was standing guard over this fat, dumb, happy country of ours, eh? Not us. Oh, no, we knew you couldn't make any money in the service. So who did the dirty work for us? Queeg did! And a lot of other guys. Tough, sharp guys who didn't crack up like Queeg.
LT Barney Greenwald (Played by Jose Ferrier), The Caine Mutiny, 1954
For some reason I'm drawn to this quote every Memorial Day. It's not an exact fit, but it works.
This country has always needed men (and an increasing number women) to stand guard over it, and as the years have past, fewer and fewer have come up to serve. If memory serves, within my life time (born 1965) over half the Congress was veterans at one point. Now it's down to 17% (it has increased since 9/11). But even as Iraq and Afghanistan become history, we will have men and women come forth and serve. And we will have men and women die in the service of our country. And that is the meaning of Memorial Day.
It's a misnomer to say "Happy Memorial Day." It's not a day to celebrate, but to commemorate and thank the men and women who have gone before us. We must, in Lincoln's greatest words, "...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.”
Friend, mentor, retired Army officer and Manny Gonzales penned a poem for his fellow members of the Thin Blue Line. It's appropriate for this day as we say thanks to countless men and women, most known, some known but to God, for their ultimate sacrifice.
We were warriors made and formed, In a fortress of grey stone. All are souls that I admire, with a bond forged strong by fire.
True friends for all my life, wearing proudly life's deep scars. Sharing lots of joy and grief, as we gaze upon the stars.
We received the call to arms. And as warriors trained we marched. And we journeyed in the rain. In a broken land of pain.
With a life that was well lived. We marched off to hold the line. To protect our way of life, and the ones we left behind
Now we lay upon the field, we gave everything we had. As I looked upon the sky, I knew my fate was sealed.
But in my dreams a Nordic Queen, with hair of golden light, and a skin as white as ice,
came to me within my dreams.
The Valkyrie angel fair, made me Champion of her realm. To protect her heart and soul, in a land of frost and elm
She’s a goddess in true form
With wings of stately white
Whose eyes and lips entice
My heart to paradise
She embraced me in her arms
And she lifted me on high.
To my final resting place
At Valhalla in the sky.
You were warriors and builders, and artists, true friends. I remember you my brothers. You left us too soon. However I will see you all in Valhalla.
RIP ladies and gentlemen.