Mon, 25 May 2009 12:06:24 +0000 – By Lauren SchneiderFOX News Channel Employee/Former U.S. Naval Officer
I came across a startling statistic recently that's particularly fitting for Memorial Day: Roughly 1.5 million men and women are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. military. An additional 1.5 million or so are serving in the Reserves or National Guard. That's about 3 million, which seems like a lot until you realize that the total U.S. population is roughly 300 million. With those numbers, only one percent of Americans are willing to raise their right hand and swear to protect this country "against all enemies foreign and domestic..." Pretty amazing since the safety and security of the Free World depends on that 1%. The "few and the proud" motto seems all too fitting.
America-- this is what Memorial Day is all about. It's all of us taking one day out of the year to recognize and celebrate this small minority serving our country not only today but throughout our history. These ordinary yet extraordinarypeople put it on the line, risking all, some losing all, while serving a far greater purpose. Yes, you might first think of Memorial Day as a three-day-weekend, the chance to channel your inner Bobby Flay at the barbeque grill, or watch a baseball game in the middle of the day without worrying whether your boss is looking for you. It's more than that but in its own way, it IS that stuff. While some may want to mark the day somberly, thinking about lost lives, it should also be a day to look at lives savedand the preservation of virtues that so few possess. It's the foundation of our nation, upon which is built our country's integrity and on which our character lies.
We admire people who demonstrate virtues of selflessness, bravery, and honor in the context of our daily life. We might see it while running errands, attending business meetings, and on athletic fields. But the people we celebrate on this day are truly the selfless, brave, and honor bound. They are our military heroes, the embodiment of our country's purest virtues and aspirations, demonstrating the highest ideals and what we value. It is Lt. Michael Murphy -- under attack in Afghanistan giving his life to ensure that aid came to his men. Petty Officer Michael Monsoor -- covering a grenade with his own body to save his platoon in Iraq. And Ed "Too Tall" Freeman flying rescue missions into the most hostile of territories in Vietnam, where even Med-Evacs wouldn't go. But it's also the enlisted member standing watch at a gate, the junior officer learning their warfare area, and the senior officer contemplating large scale operations necessary to preserve our freedom. While seemingly ordinary people, these people are driven by principle and devotion to us all. They are the one percent.
I don't think that those who perished in service to our nation would want a quiet day of sadness, another funeral. Those brave souls gave their lives for the very things that mark the day. So, I hope, now that you've thought about these things, when you're asked now, "What does Memorial Day mean to you?", you might still answer picnics, parades, and fireworks... even a three-day-weekend. But I hope that now, when you think of these things, they will seem all the more precious. They were paid for in American blood. How lucky we are to have our barbeques, the freedom to meet with family and friends, and to be able to watch sports without fearing for our safety. This is the America that is envied around the world and protected by our bravest. How ironic that Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of summer, our most carefree time of the year.
"I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration [Memorial] Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did." --- President Benjamin Harrison
So when the nation marks the annual Moment of Remembrance across the country at 3 p.m., think of how lucky you are, of the sacrifices made, the principles held, and of those who truly believed that those ideals were worth more than their lives. The hamburgers on the grill can wait for a minute.