Our hero, Daren - KIA 20 Feb 2011
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Memorial Day Is Unique
Remarks delivered by Mel Levey at the Merced District Cemetery, 26 May 2014
Good morning, I am humbled to speak here today. To our Gold Star Families who are here with us, THANK YOU. Thank you for allowing us to share in honoring and remembering your sacrifice, and may our presence here bring you comfort in knowing that your loved ones have not, and will not, be forgotten.
Unique among holidays, Memorial Day is nearly timeless. Unlike most aspects of our world, Memorial Day remains mostly unchanged since its inception in 1868. Were a war widow from those post-Civil War years to find herself at this cemetery among those of us gathered today, she would understand our purpose here. She would empathize with our emotions and she would grip hands with us in remembering our dead. This 19thcentury woman would likely not recognize our technology or our fashion styles, but she would recognize this ceremony. She would know that we assemble here, as Americans do in cemeteries throughout our country today, to lay flowers and make speeches in hopes of remembering the sacrifice that the bravest among us have made. This Civil War widow would know that war has touched us as it has every generation of Americans and she would grieve with us for loved ones lost in Korea and Vietnam, Kuwait and Afghanistan and Iraq, and many other places, just as she would have gathered in 1868 to remember her love lost at Shiloh or Petersburg.
Unique among holidays, Memorial Day is painfully silent. It is a day when black bracelets feel a little tighter and dog tags weigh a little heavier. Whereas other holidays are defined by a journey home, complete with a reunion of family and friends, Memorial Day is void of these cheers and hugs; the jokes and the laughter. Instead, this day is marked by its loss; by our collective loss—by reunions that will be incomplete in this life but so steadfastly hoped for in the afterlife.
Unique among holidays, Memorial Day is overwhelmingly melancholic. Unlike those holidays that we eagerly await and then lament for having been too short, for many, Memorial Day does not pass cheerfully or quickly. Rather, many of us gird ourselves for the emotions we are sure to feel today—sadness, loneliness, perhaps guilt. Above all, however, we know that on this day each year, we will be enormously grateful. Grateful to be here to remember the lives and the sacrifices of the best people many of us will ever know. Grateful for the chance to have met and served with those who are no longer with us.
Unique among holidays, Memorial Day is continuouslyrenewed. Unlike other holidays, today we do not celebrate a single date or life in history. We honor the millions of men and women who died fighting for the values of freedom and democracy that define our nation. We do not honor only a single greatest generation, or a single battle; rather, we remember the greatest of every generation in every war in which this country has fought. For every generation has had its call to arms as well as its own roster of heroes who have valiantly answered it. Today we remember the young Americans who have put our survival on their backs and carried us as far as life’s breath would allow.
Unique among holidays, Memorial Day is profoundly different to each and every one of us; for those who have sacrificed, and their families and friends, and for those who have helped to bear the pain of the suffering on days when the loss seemed too great to handle.
While some days of remembrance fade into history, Memorial Day cannot. Each generation feels its pain; expresses their gratitude. But flowers and speeches on the final Monday in May each year cannot be our only expression of gratitude. We must pick up our fallen comrades’ packs and continue the march to a better, more peaceful, place. We, the ones who remain, must continue to strive and work in hopes that one day there may be a generation of Americans who honor our war dead without ever knowing them. That is a blessing thus far elusive, but one which our fallen demand that we seek.
On this Memorial Day, we remember our friends and battle buddies, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives. Today, we remember our sons and daughters, taken too soon so that we may live on. Lest we forget.
May God continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you.