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Today I had dinner with a patriot who understands the real meaning of Memorial Day. He has served in the Army, both on active duty and in the reserves, since he was a teenager, and has survived numerous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knew many other patriots who came back from those places in coffins.
Unfortunately, his Commander-in-Chief does not understand the meaning of Memorial Day. This is not too surprising since he never served in the military and since one of his key campaign promises was that he would do everything in his power to weaken our military strength and readiness. Specifically, Obama stated in 2008 that he would reduce our military by 50%.
At dinner I asked my friend (we’ll call him “Fred” to protect him from those who don’t like free speech), what he thought I should write about this Memorial Day weekend. Fred has achieved the second highest enlisted rank in the U.S. Army. He told me he heard Obama make this statement about Memorial Day: “On this day we honor our fallen by honoring all those in uniform.” Fred is a very perceptive man. He picked up on something that the great majority probably missed in this statement. It sounds good on the surface, doesn’t it? Honor our fallen heroes by honoring all the men and women who serve. But that’s not the purpose of Memorial Day. Obama’s statement is just another example of the destructive “inclusiveness” that is methodically stripping away any meaning from the sacred traditions that remind us of who we are as a nation, and of the terrible sacrifices that patriots have made to allow us our freedom.
A cynic might also note that Obama’s statement is a blatant attempt to court the votes of serving veterans. After all, live veterans vote; dead veterans don’t.
Memorial Day is a national day of remembrance for those who died in the service of our nation. It is a special day to honor their memories. It was originally called Decoration Day. All across the nation women’s groups set aside a special day to decorate the graves of those who died during the Civil War. It was officially proclaimed by Army General John Logan on May 5, 1868, and was first observed on May 30 of that year by the placing of flowers on the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
Memorial Day was recognized by all states by the end of World War I, when the holiday was changed from honoring only the fallen of the Civil War, to honoring Americans who had died fighting in any war. Even though millions of Americans celebrated the day, it was not until 1971 that it was recognized as a national holiday. In that year, by an Act of Congress, the last Monday in May was set aside for Memorial Day, ensuring a three-day weekend. This was a mistake. In their comment on this act, the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated, “Changing the date merely to create a three-day weekend has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”
I’m sure they are correct. Sadly, Memorial Day observances have gradually died away over the years. It has become just another weekend to barbeque and party. Cities and towns that had held Memorial Day Parades every year for decades have dropped them. Services honoring our war dead at cemeteries, which were once common in every city, town and village, are all but unheard of today. So no, Mr. Obama, we don’t need to further water down the observance of Memorial Day by making it a general celebration of the military. (In case you hadn’t noticed, we just celebrated Armed Forces Day two weeks ago on May 15th.) We need to renew our efforts to ensure that the men and women who loved their country in a way you will never understand receive proper honor for making the ultimate sacrifice.
On reflection, perhaps I have been too hard on Obama. I found this quote from a previous Obama Memorial Day speech, which indicates that he may not actually understand what “fallen” means. (And yes, I checked out the authenticity of the quote with numerous sources.) “On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes – and I see many of them in the audience here today – our sense of patriotism is particularly strong.”
Obama broke the long-standing presidential tradition of visiting Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, 2010. Instead, he made a quick visit to a cemetery in Illinois where he and his family enjoyed yet another of their many vacations at taxpayer expense. Many veterans expressed dismay at this perceived disrespect…