“…we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.“
– President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, 1863
Memorial Day typically marks the unofficial start of the summer season. Americans across the country take time out to spend with families, friends, and neighbors. Some may fire up the grill, march in a parade, crank out homemade ice cream, or attend a special service or concert.
And that’s all great.
But let’s take time out today to remember those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” for their country. We honor those brave men and women in uniform who gave their lives so we can enjoy the blessings and responsibilities of liberty today.
A two minute speech by Abraham Lincoln dedicating the Gettysburg National Cemetery just four months after that bloody battle memorializes the enormous debt of thanks and gratitude that we, the living, owe to those who gave “the last full measure of devotion” that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth.”
We cannot dedicate, consecrate, or hallow the sacrifice of those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” to their country beyond what they have already done. But we can remember. We can reflect. We can humbly honor their sacrifice. It is up to us, the living, to never forget.