This editorial first appeared on May 30, 2018.
Every day could be Memorial Day, but the last Monday in May is set aside as a day of reflection and remembrance of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to country.
On Monday, a grateful nation paused to honor those who didn't come home — or if they did it was in a flag-draped casket.
In ceremonies on town squares, at Arlington National Cemetery, at major league ballparks, at family picnics or in quiet reflection, the dead were again memorialized.
“Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance,” former Circuit Judge Vernon Cotten said at a ceremony here a few years ago.
“America’s collective consciousness demands that all citizens be aware of and recall on special occasions the deaths of their fellow countrymen during war time,” he said.
“Far too often the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms all Americans enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew.”
Cotten quoted Abraham Lincoln when he said: “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.”
Carved into granite at the cemetery in France where 5,076 Americans are buried — most of whom died in the Battle of the Bulge — are Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's words:
“All who shall hereafter live in freedom will be here reminded that to these men and their comrades we owe a debt to be paid with grateful remembrance of their sacrifice and with the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live eternally.”
It doesn't seem that long ago how our whole town turned out and lined the streets waving American flags as funeral processions for Joshua Ladd and later Matthew Stovall — both of whom died early in the Iraq war — passed.
Sgt. Joshua S. Ladd was killed May 1, 2004, in Iraq. He was 20. He was an eager young man willing to serve a county he believed in.
Second Lt. Matthew Ryan Stovall died Aug. 22, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq. He was 25.
A soldier under Stovall’s command wrote to his family not long after reflecting on his outstanding leadership in the hellish outpost of Iraq as a platoon leader who was very much in demand: “The easiest way I found to locate him was to follow the sound of laughter and trail of smiling people, and there, in the center of a group of people joking and laughing, would be lieutenant wearing a grin.”
At Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, President Trump honored the wife and 7-year-old son of a fallen Marine. The President met the boy last year and they walked — the kid in full Marine dress — among the grave markers to his father’s burial place in a touching moment that captured the nation.
“Last year at Arlington Cemetery, I met a young boy named Christian Jacobs. He was special,” Trump said. “He was standing fully in a uniform. His father was a great man to him and he was a great man to me. And Christian was standing over his father's grave, saluting. It was something I'll never forget.”
“It was a moment I will always remember. Christian, I want you to know that even though your father has left this world, he’s left it for the next. He’s not gone, he’ll never be gone. Your dad’s love, courage, and strength live in you, Christian, and as you grow bigger and stronger, just like him, so, too, does your father’s incredible legacy. So thank you both. That’s so beautiful. Thank you.”
President Trump said to Gold Star mothers everywhere, “May we never, ever forget our honored war dead and their sacrifices.”