The True Meaning of Sacrifice

Happy Friday everyone!

Don’t forget to visit me at the Scribes. We have a guest today – RC Bonitz – A Blanket for Her Heart.

Since Memorial Day is around the corner, I’d like to share some facts about the holiday, a poem by Longfellow, and my thoughts on sacrifice.

  • Originally, the holiday was known as Decoration Day – a day to remember Civil War dead and decorate their graves with flowers. It was celebrated on different dates depending on the region of the country.
  • The first Decoration Day was held on May 30, 1868. An official ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery. Five thousand participants helped decorate the 20,000 graves of both Union and Confederate Army dead. The date was chosen because it was not a battle anniversary day.
  • After World War I, Memorial Day ceremonies were held to remember the dead from all wars. Although, the term Memorial Day was first used in 1882, it did not become the holiday’s common name until after World War II.
  • Memorial Day didn’t become an official Federal holiday until 1971. At the same time, the Uniform Holidays Bill went into effect moving several holidays, including Memorial day to specific Mondays.
  • Since Memorial Day was moved from May 30, there have been several bills introduced in Congress to return Memorial Day to it’s original date to restore significance back to the day.
As promised, a snippet of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – The Arsenal at Springfield

This is the Arsenal. From floor to ceiling,
Like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms;
But front their silent pipes no anthem pealing
Startles the villages with strange alarms.

Ah! what a sound will rise, how wild and dreary,
When the death-angel touches those swift keys
What loud lament and dismal Miserere
Will mingle with their awful symphonies

I hear even now the infinite fierce chorus,
The cries of agony, the endless groan,
Which, through the ages that have gone before us,
In long reverberations reach our own.

To read the rest – click here

Published in 1845, after Longfellow visited the armory in Springfield, MA, many scholars consider this to be an effective example of an anti-war poem. Longfellow likened the guns to a pipe organ of death, destruction and misery.

And yet, as abhorrent as war is, sometimes, it’s necessary to stop evil.

Freedom is not free.

Historian Stephen Ambrose once said of his fallen brothers in arms- “they gave up all of their tomorrows, so we could have our today.”

I have never forgotten that quote. A stark and vivid reminder that all the freedoms that we take for granted come at a great cost.

So ask yourself – how can I honor their sacrifice?

  • Be informed citizens (yes, that means watching political debates, reading the newspaper, paying attention to the issues that matter to you).
  • Run for office or serve on local town committees, support military families, thank a solder next time you see one, and teach your children to respect democracy, and don’t try to get out of jury duty.
  • Learn and appreciate the history of the United States of America. Forget history class. There are hundreds of well-written interesting books out there! You’d be surprised to learn how many of the problems we face today have their roots in events from the past.
  • Vote in every election no matter how big or small.

From the bottom of my heart, I say – thank you – to all the fallen soldiers and veterans- knowing that no amount of gratitude can make up for the ultimate sacrifice made by the men and women in the Armed Forces. Past. Present. Future.

Have a safe and meaning filled holiday everyone!

12 thoughts on “The True Meaning of Sacrifice

  1. Nice post. I agree with you. I love my country. I cry every time I hear the National Anthem. I am honored to thank any service person I see, and also those forgotten Vets from Viet Nam (my era). These brave men and women stood between me and the enemy, willing to pay the ultimate price for the freedoms we take for granted. Sadly, many in our nation behave like spoiled children who think these freedoms are owed to them. The Declaration of Independence may have been written and signed in iron ink, but it is defended by blood. Thanks for the tribute of this post.

    1. Well said, Gerri. I get all teary when I hear the National Anthem too. When I was an intern at the Smithsonian (American History Museum), they had on display (and still do) THE flag that inspired the National Anthem – the flag that Francis Scott Key saw out his window. I was always amazed by it. That someone had saved it and that we citizens could see if – for real. It’s huge (if you’ve never seen it). I hope one of these years, younger son and I will get a chance to visit DC together so he can see it for himself.

  2. Guess we’re all thinking about the blessings and responsibilities of freedom, Casey – good time for it!

  3. I live a couple of towns over from Springfield. It was very interesting to see it in your blog today. It’s amazing how many people forget the true meaning of Memorial Day. Thank you for reminding people.

    1. Me too! That is my photo of the guns. We went to the arsenal two years ago for my birthday. I had never been before and I’m so glad we went. I was really moved by Longfellow’s poem and I searched high and low for a book with it. In the end, I ended up printing it off the internet. It’s a great place to visit and it’s free!

  4. Great post. I am so thankful to all the people who have fought for our freedom. What a wonderful tribute you’ve paid them.

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