Today is Memorial Day. Today is the day we remember all those who gave their lives in the service of this great nation.
Most of us have seen pictures or film of Arlington National Cemetery, or perhaps the beautiful National Cemetery of the Pacific, better known as The Puchbowl.
Of course, over the last 7 years, we’ve seen servicemembers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq come home to be laid to rest. The older folks among us remember the constant stream of casualties brought home from Vietnam.
Today, if you are killed in action, you will be escorted all the way home, from the battlefield to your final resting place. The Air Force will fly you from the theater of operations to Dover, Delaware. You may well be the only cargo on the entire aircraft. A servicemember will accompany you from Dover to your hometown, or to Arlington, or wherever it is that will be your grave.
But it was not always thus. In WWI and in WWII, thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen made the ultimate sacrifice far from our shores. Thousands upon thousands of American men died in the fields of Europe. They were usually buried very near where they fell, in crude, makeshift graves, with perhaps a single wooden slab as a marker. After the fighting had moved on, they were disinterred, and moved to more permanent cemeteries. After the war, the US government offered to disinter these heroes again, to bring them home to our native land. Many were brought home. But many families, for many reasons, chose to let them rest where they were. And so, throughout Europe, there are cemeteries.
The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains these tiny patches of American soil, paid for and consecrated with that most precious currency, the blood of patriots. If you find yourself traveling to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, or one of the other nations with an American cemetery, by all means, go visit. It is a moving experience.
And even if you aren’t in Europe today, please, enjoy the day off, enjoy the BBQ and cocktails with friends. Enjoy the sales at the store. By all means, do so. But take just a moment, please, to remember those who answered their nations call, and gave the last full measure of devotion.
Many thanks to an anonymous reader of Neptunus Lex for the use of the photos.