Now I Begin,
Now I Begin,
Memorial Day generally heralds the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. Many head to the beach, celebrate with family and friends, hit those spectacular sales, and just kick back and relax. Well, my kids do not get out of school until mid June, it does not feel much like summer here in Virginia, and I am on a time out from Khols. This leaves time for some reflection on the true nature of this last day in May.
After the American Civil War, you know the war that split our country into two and claimed the lives of nearly 620,000 souls, it became common practice to commemorate those lost lives throughout the nation. There are many claims to who actually was the first to celebrate Memorial Day. My favorite is one involving Charleston South Carolina freed slaves. May 1, 1865 the black residents of Charleston came together and cleaned up the burial ground of the Hampton Park Race Course where at least 257 Union prisoners of war died. In the words of Yale Pofessor and Historian David W Blight:
This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.
Commonly referred to as Decoration Day, Memorial Day did not get its official name until 1968. In 1969 the Federal Govt stepped in and officially mandated that Memorial Day be celebrated on the last Monday of May creating a three day weekend. Even after the law went into effect at the Federal Level in 1971, it took several years for the individual states to follow suit.
Often confused with Veterans day, a holiday where we celebrate men and women who have and are currently serving in military service, Memorial Day is a day to recognize the service men and women who died while serving in our country’s armed forces because freedom is not free.
Freedom is not free. You have heard it before and may have even seen it engraved on the Washington DC Korean War Memorial. No words have ever rang truer. The price of freedom is not just the billions of dollars that it costs to go to war and to maintain our defense system. The cost of freedom is blood. The cost of freedom goes back before the Civil War, all the way to the American Revolutionary War. Early Americans paid the price of freedom with the blood of Revolutionary Fighters in the birth of our country. Confederate and Union soldiers as well as slaves gave their blood during the Civil War. The price of freedom was paid during the Civil Rights Movement, where men and women of color were beaten and even murdered because freedom is more than a proclamation. We have paid the price of freedom with blood in war after war after war. While some picket and protest against military intervention, even holding up signs with offensive anti military slogans, men and women continue to pay the ultimate sacrifice; because we live in a country that allows us to say “You Are Wrong” publicly without fear. Freedom is not free.
Freedom is not just paid with money and blood. Freedom costs broken minds and bodies. Freedom costs broken homes and families. Freedom is traumatic brain injuries, post concussive syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder, irreconcilable differences and suicide. Freedom is not Free.
This Memorial Day Monday, as you enjoy your time off, as you swim in your pools, bask in the sunshine, plant flags along your yards, and barbecue in your backyards remember freedom is not free. Never Forget those who paid the price. Never forget those who continue to pay the price.