Published on May 24, 2019

flag in cemetery

Memorial Day 2019

Monday is Memorial Day—the solemn holiday on which we honor those who have given their lives during military service to our country.

It is a day that has been observed in many ways since the end of the Civil War—that defining national conflict in which some 625,000 Americans lost their lives. Since 1900, more than 35 million men and women have served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other military engagements. More than half a million of them gave their lives in the cause of freedom—some in battle, some in captivity.

Historian Robert Louis Wilken wrote, “The things we remember in our common life quietly convey a precious inheritance that helps us keep faith with the dead and form, in unspoken ways, the sensibilities and attitudes, not to say hopes and dreams, of those who will follow us.” On Memorial Day we remember and accept as an inheritance the patriotism and love of country embodied by our war dead and national heroes.

In healthcare we give service, and we do so with willingness and pride. Our hospitals will be open this long weekend and fully staffed with individuals whose holiday weekend includes long and busy shifts at work. In a community where a large number of our neighbors are (or were) members of the armed forces, Memorial Day is particularly poignant and held close in our hearts.

And so this is a holiday that we should approach with thoughtful intent. We honor those who have courageously defended our freedoms in many ways—through public events and parades, flower-laden visits to gravesites and flags at half-staff—remembering our veterans and loved ones in speeches, stories, and songs, and reflecting thoughtfully on their sacrifice.

Perhaps the most fitting way to honor those who gave their lives in service to their country is to celebrate the very qualities for which they died:  liberty to discover all that life offers, life in all its richness, and the pursuit of happiness through family, community, safety, equality, opportunity, and freedom.

It is with humble gratitude that we regard the gifts of freedom that have been won so dearly. Memorial Day is a day to remember those who make our democracy possible. We are forever in their debt.

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