The Oddity of Memorial Day

It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray-haired. But most of them were boys when they died, they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for their county, for us. All we can do is remember.

Ronald Wilson Reagan, Remarks at Veteran’s Day ceremony, Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 1985

The Journey of a New Year

This is the first of a new year. We are setting out on a journey of which we can have no knowledge in advance. The road is one on which we never have gone heretofore. We know not what any day will have for us, what our duties will be, what burdens shall be laid upon us, what sorrows we shall have to endure, what battles we shall have to fight. We cannot see one step before us. How can we know the way? As we sit in the quiet, this first evening, and ask the question, we hear an answer which is full of comfort, Jesus says to us, “I am the way.” All we shall have to do, therefore, will be to stay with Christ. He has made a way through the world for us. He has gone over all the journey and opened a road for us at great cost. He went over the way himself —we shall find his shoe-prints at every step. He has a definite way for each one of us. “Every mile of the journey he has chosen, and every place where I pitch my tent he has selected for me.

J. R. Miller (1840 – 1912)

Memorial Day 2012

Winston Churchill said of those he knew in World War II they seemed to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, “just the best darn kids in the world.” Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life. Well, they didn’t volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.

As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of young men will every have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.

Ronald Reagan — Memorial Day speech, May 31, 1982