Memorial Day: a day to be sad (& happy)

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I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,liberty freedomnotfortimidthumb

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,

robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

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Walt Whitman

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“The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic.”

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Memorial Day is a day to be happy for what we have and sad for the cost to maintain the idea of which we in the United States have. But, mostly, today we memorialize the efforts of the people of the United State of America who have put their lives on the line for the protection of ‘freedom of’ globally.

Freedom. Freedom of choice, freedom to think different thoughts and freedom to speak your thoughts. These are freedoms which we believe people, anywhere, should have. It is their inalienable right. This belief makes us happy, yet, also represents a burden of responsibility. Just look at the map of the United States state mottos. memorial day america

It is a reminder that state by state we embrace the freedom which is the lifeblood of the soul of what is United States of America.

While I assume, or presume, USA has accepted this responsibility based on a higher purpose linked to everyone deserves ‘freedom of’ I also tend to believe somewhere in our souls of purpose we also assume this responsibility because we recognize that people who live in cultures with freedom tend to be happier people <graph & research included in link>.

I remind everyone of this today because while sometimes we Americans invest a lot of energy trying to convince ourselves that we are the most dysfunctional and divisive country in the world we may want to invest some of that same energy reminding ourselves that because we stand so unequivocally for ‘freedom of’ that can make us appear dysfunctional & divisive, i.e., it’s sometimes simply the natural repercussions of a culture embracing, and constantly struggling with, ‘freedom of.’

Supporting that belief and right is not only a responsibility our military upholds globally … we enjoy it domestically.

Freedom forces involvement <either mentally or physically>. And I believe when people are involved in choices, or even just voicing opinions, they feel more involved in the bigger picture of what is happening … and are proportionately happier. Happier and, yet, still dissatisfied. Freedom is a very satisfying thing <we enjoy it> … and dissatisfying thing <we struggle with the boundaries>.

Regardless. It stretches us as people.

Now. We tend to confuse being perpetually dissatisfied <as a country> versus simply being unhappy.

Yeah. We are dissatisfied. We are dissatisfied because once we have attained something we strive for the next level of ‘something better.’ People are happiest when evolving, but, in general we are a happier nation because we have the ‘freedom of.’

Just take a moment today and remember that <and maybe smile for once when looking at the flag>.

Ah.

progress .flagNow to those we memorialize on Memorial Day.

The ones I call heroes.

The ones who have actually done something beyond simply voicing opinions.

The ones who have acted.

And I imagine the ones who Lincoln suggested ‘gave the last full measure of devotion.’

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“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.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — 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.”

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863


I do not use the ‘Hero’ word lightly … but they are the heroes we should be recognizing. These are not everyday heroes. In fact … I will remind everyone that I suggested several memorial days ago that we use the word ‘hero’ far too often 364 days of the year and most likely not enough on this day.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who suggested the common cannot be heroes. That is not a popular thought these days, but a worthy thought on Memorial Days. We run the risk of being disingenuous if we call those who truly deserve the title ‘hero’ on Memorial Day and, yet, call the common everyday grind people the other 364 days of the year heroes.

Yikes.

I am suggesting that we the people, the common everyday people who fight the grind, the good fight, day in and day out, must reject the belief that we are, or can be, ‘heroic’ in our everyday lives. Yeah. I am suggesting that we everyday common people stop thinking the overall belief that heroism resides in the capacity of the majority.

Emerson said it, and I agree, true heroism is not in the purview of the common person.

True heroism is not for you & I <okay … maybe some of us … but not me>.

Our job .. task as it were … dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new do what you must by Yoshiterubirth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

That is our task … not heroism.

Yet, it seems like in today’s world we have a desperate desire for heroes and heroism. Desperate but with good intentions to memorialize the true effort exerted by the common person.

In doing so we have a tendency to celebrate even a glimmer of heroism found in the ordinary person in whatever moment could possibly be construed as some extraordinary moment.

I am suggesting in these moments that by doing so we diminish heroism and the true heroes. To me things like duty, honor, courage & integrity are every day obligations for everyday people.

Not exceptional, but expected.

In other words people should be going about doing what they do with a sense of duty. Simply doing what we expect people should do. I believe ‘Hero’ should be an esteemed status.

Elite.

We should commend and bestow the honor of ‘hero’ only those who ‘serve beyond the call of duty’ without expectation of reward.

Just as there is only one North Star the great heroes should remain the soldier dad youre-home-safe_largebrightest of the bright stars. And when we create heroes from those who simply portray courage or a strong sense of duty <or doing what is right or what we should expect of common everyday people> it seems to lessen rather than increase the image and reality of true heroism.

Great heroes are few in number.

Great heroes are not doing little things that matter.

Great heroes should be celebrated & honored on Memorial Day.

That said.

To the many, but not enough, military folk I have had the pleasure & honor of meeting and known -I salute you.

My ‘freedom of’ exists today because of your choice to serve and support it.

heroes memorial-day

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And some sobering thoughts to remind us of the ‘few’ who deserve the hero title:

The number of U.S. casualties in each U.S. war:

Civil War:

Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half of these deaths were caused by disease.

World War I:

116,516 Americans died, more than half from disease.

World War II:

405,399 Americans died.

Korean War:

36,574 Americans died.

Vietnam Conflict:

58,220 Americans died. More than 47,000 Americans were killed in action and nearly 11,000 died of other causes.

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm:

148 U.S. battle deaths and 145 non-battle deaths.

Operation Iraqi Freedom:

4,422 U.S. service members died.

Operation New Dawn:

66 U.S. service members died.

Operation Enduring Freedom:

2,318 U.S. service members died (as of May 12, 2014).

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Written by Bruce