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Richard Larsen: Memorial Day Significance Greater than Just One Day

June 6th, 2012 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The significance and emotions associated with Memorial Day should be pervasive, and not limited to a single day each year. A personal experience this past week made my reflection on that significance even more poignant this year, and delayed my commentary by a week.

It has always been with a sense of awe that I have regarded those who have either voluntarily or involuntarily, assumed the role of guardians of life and liberty, by taking an oath to preserve and defend the Constitution against enemies, foreign and domestic. I’m deeply moved by our military men and women who don the uniform of our various military branches, who may enlist for many different reasons, yet are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. They know all too well that they can, and most likely will, be called upon to place their lives in harm’s way for our sake, and untold millions around the world.

But my respect and gratitude for them reached a new apotheosis after observing the solemn, yet exhilarating Basic Training graduation of nearly 200 new soldiers in the Army 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment “Guardians” at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, this past week. My emotions were multiplied by the fact that my youngest son, Jonathan, was among those graduates.

All Americans should be humbled by our soldiers’ willingness to assume the formidable task of confronting the belligerent and hostile forces around the globe that threaten peace, individual liberty, and physical safety. Yet as a parent of one such brave and noble soldier, emotions are bifurcated; on the one hand, a sense of pride and gratitude, while on the other, apprehension and fear of the unknown.

Jonathan’s attitude is likely similar to many of today’s military recruits. As he expressed to me, “My primary motivation in signing up was to acquire more skills, discipline, and maturity to fulfill my role as a husband and a future father. Joining the Army has opened a whole new horizon of possibilities for my family that were nonexistent just a few months ago.”

He continued, “But as a beneficiary of the efforts and courage of untold millions who have worn the uniform before me, I’m proud and honored to follow in their footsteps of safeguarding our liberties and our national interests. I’ll be forever grateful for parents, grandparents, and teachers who have instilled in me a love of America and the ideals this great nation was built upon. I know that I may be called upon to place my life at risk for others’ sake, and for the defense of our country, and have willingly and dutifully taken an oath to do so. I will be equal to the task, answer the call to duty, and will honorably and faithfully execute my mission, whatever it may be.”

For those of my generation who have witnessed the erosion of character and substance in today’s youth, such evidence of honor and moral fiber fosters hope that the rising generation is not comprised wholly of recalcitrant, narcissistic, and egocentric delinquents. Visiting with one of Jonathan’s Drill Sergeants, it was evident that our military leaders struggle to supplant the pervasive contemporary attitudes of self-absorption with the esprit de corps requisite to form the moral backbone of today’s military.

Ronald Reagan uttered a truism that captured the singular importance of that moral fiber and depth of character. He said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Such character is essential not only for our military men and women, but our elected leaders, as well as for us, the citizens of the nation. When personal comforts and aggrandizement threaten to displace our sense of propriety for the nation as a whole, the very fabric of a democratic society is jeopardized.

We, as Americans, should collectively rise up in valor equal to the conviction of those who have hallowed many lands with their blood, and stand against foes, foreign and domestic, who seek to curtail and abridge our freedom. The mottos of our armed forces are at once inspirational, as well as motivational. This time of year is fitting to reflect on their collective wisdom and our need to embody them in perpetuity. For the Army, “This We’ll Defend,” as well as that of the Marines, “Semper Fidelis,” (Forever Faithful) and the Navy traditional motto, “Not for self, but for country,” and the Air Force core values, “Integrity First,?Service Before Self,?Excellence in All We Do.”

Reagan further characterized the need for all of us to strengthen our resolve, when he importuned, “Let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.”

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