This weekend I visited the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg as part of our Memorial Day commemorations. As many may know, the last Monday in May is a federal holiday in the U.S. when we remember those who’ve died while serving in our armed forces.
I walked the hallowed grounds of the cemetery in quiet reflection. I saw General Patton’s grave and took time to reflect on his story and place in history. I thought of all the books and movies that depict the story of one of America’s most famous wartime Generals. Then walking between the other headstones you realize that some of those who lost their lives where still teenagers; lives sacrificed in defense of freedom. Gone too soon? You wonder if the family line ended with their sacrifice. You wonder who’s telling their story. You see the gravestones of siblings buried next to each other and are saddened even more. Then you come across the gravestone of the unknown.
These were regular folks, factory workers and clerks, like you and me, who went to battle. These regular folks did the extraordinary to secure our right to free will. Looking out at the spanse of headstones it should quickly dawn on anyone breathing that freedom should never be taken for granted. I immediately felt immense gratitude to those who faced the jaws of death and paid the ultimate sacrifice. It is a special calling to be one of the few willing to die in defense of one’s country. It is a calling to a cause much greater than oneself. This calling isn’t understood by some today. Those who get wrapped around their individual ideologies about war, forget that there are a few good men and women who, regardless of how you feel, train day-in and day-out in preparation to answer their nation’s call. They do so knowing that response may require never returning home. America collectively values this special group of people and honors them with days federal holidays and more.
As I stood among the rows of white-marbled headstones, I felt in the greatest of company; among heroes of a great generation of Americans. This Memorial Day, take a moment to reflect on those who lost their lives in defense of freedom. You enjoy yours today (even the ones you don’t appreciate), because they gave up all of theirs.