Memorial Day is a day to remember what should be remembered every day–the more than 1.3-million American veterans who gave their lives in war so that they, and we, their posterity, might live as free Americans.
The questions are raised: Should remembrance of the price of freedom be limited to one Memorial Day a year? And, can we Americans live in freedom if we are no longer willing to die for it?
Each of us owes a debt to all those Americans who came before us and sacrificed their lives for freedom. We pay that debt by what we do to preserve freedom for all those Americans who will come after us.
While many Americans, unfortunately, do not even know what Memorial Day represents, many millions of others do. Among them, of course, are veterans. All across America, veterans of The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans,and other veterans, gather at their Posts, or at National or State Veterans Cemeteries, or at community events, to remember the high price of freedom, paid by those veterans who purchased and preserved our freedom with their lives.
For example, one of those American Legion Posts is Riverside Post 79, in Riverside, CA, of which I am partisan as a Life Member. It was founded in 1921 by WWI veterans, only two years after the founding of The American Legion in 1919 by WWI GI’s in Paris, France, awaiting repatriation home after winning WWI. (For this long and proud history, see www.Legion.org; or www.CaLegion.org.)
Post 79 members conducted Memorial Day Ceremonies at Evergreen Cemetery at 9 a.m., after earlier affixing flags to the headstones of veterans there. Honors ceremonies were conducted also at noon outside Post 79, immediately across from the WWI Pershing Tank which is located at the edge of the lake at Fairmount Park, daily reminding Post members of the sacrifices made in WWI.
The ceremonies were led by Commander Deno Blankenship (Army, Vietnam), assisted by acting Chaplain Marcos Enriquez (USAF, Desert Storm-Iraq -and Afghanistan).They each followed in the footsteps of past Post 79 Commanders and officers in what is now a ninety-five year Legion Post 79 tradition of remembering and honoring fallen comrades in Memorial Day ceremonies.
The solemn ceremonies of morning and noon, with the Flag first lowered to half-staff then raised again, were followed by a “Family Day” at the Post. Hamburgers, hotdogs, beverages, and “Pot Luck,” were provided to Legion families. The afternoon was one of camaraderie of families of those who have served, amidst the joyous laughter on Memorial Day of their children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren — who, in their turn, may one day be called to serve to preserve the nation’s freedom.
The earlier honors ceremonies included tribute rifle volleys and the playing of Taps by the Robert J. “Uncle Bobby” Castillo Honor Detail, Team 12, named for its late founder, a D-Day WWII Purple Heart survivor, Past Post 79 Commander, and a beloved legendary California American Legionnaire. The Post 79 Honor Detail, too, crosses generational lines. Its current members range from veterans of the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Post 79’s MHD Team 12 is one of some 29 Memorial Honor Details of volunteer veterans who provide dignified military services for fallen comrades at Riverside National Cemetery. Team 12 members perform military services at usually from six to ten funerals at RNC on the first and third Tuesday of each month, and the fifthTuesday when there is one. The Team also provides Honor Details on call at community events, schools, universities, government installations, funerals for veterans at cemeteries other than RNC.
Post 79’s military honors ceremonies at Evergreen Cemetery were carried out in front of the rough-cut stone Cross at Evergreen Cemetery which was established in 1924 by Auxiliary Unit 79 of the Riverside Post to honor WWI veterans who gave their lives. The current Auxiliary Unit 79 President Judy Benzala, following the tradition of Auxiliary Presidents for some nine decades, placed a wreath at the foot of the Cross to honor all veterans who have given their lives in all of the wars in defense of American freedom.
Fortunately, that tradition continues, as, to date, that Cross established by the patriotic women of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 79 of the WWI generation to honor Americans who died in that and all wars, has not yet been targeted for destruction by litigation by the intolerant secular extremists of the ACLU, which has become the Taliban of American liberal secularism.
In contrast to the respectful honors ceremonies by veterans and other patriots on Memorial Day and every day, the ACLU sued for ten years to destroy the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross until finally forced to surrender in 2012, and is now in its 46th year of litigation to destroy the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial Cross which honors the service of all veterans there, as a universally recognized symbol of selfless giving of one’s life for others. (For more information on the ACLU’s anti-Cross jihadism, see www.Legion.org, www.CaLegion.org,)
The Post 79 honors ceremonies cited here are but one example of veterans-honoring-veterans — in ways, words, and symbols veterans choose, exercising their “right to choose” — in ceremonies large and small on Memorial Day, in the some 14,000 American Legion Posts, VFW, DAV, other veterans service organizations Posts, as well as in community observances throughout the nation.
That is good. But the question is raised: Should those who have given their lives for our freedom be remembered only on Memorial Day?
The California Legislature last year adopted a statute based on the “21-Second Rembrance Resolution written by former Marine and Riverside Post 79 Sgt.-At-Arms Ray Trosper, and adopted by the 2014 California Legion Convention. The statute, like the Legion Resolution, calls on California citizens not to honor veterans only on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, but by observing 21-seconds of silent remembrance on the 21st day of every month, in emulation of the honor of the traditional 21-gun salute, or the 21-steps of the honor detail members guarding the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier.
USMC Veteran and Legionnaire Ray Trosper who authored the Legion 21-Second Remembrance Resolution which is now codified in California statutes, states the matter concisely: “Those Americans who died in service gave their lives for us. We should be willing to at least remember them for 21-second moments of silence, one time a month, on the 21st day of each month. ” (For more information on the “21-Second Remembrance,” see www.21SecondsNow.com.)
Times change, but fundamental truths do not. One of those truths is that freedom is not free, and those unwilling to fight and die for freedom will soon no longer be able to live free. As former President Ronald Reagan, who volunteered for service in WWII, said, liberty has to be defended by every generation if it is to be preserved.
More than 1.3-million Americans have died in war that we might be free. (See, data attached below on all those who have given their lives in war through the generations, from the Revolutionary War to the War Against Islamic Terrorism today.)
Also, on this 100th year anniversary of its writing by Canadian Major John McCrae, a physician in military service in the battle of Ypres in WWI, we do well to remember the words of the immortal war poem, “In Flanders Fields.” It is as moving, meaningful, and applicable to the wars and veterans of this day, as it was when written in May, 1915, in WWI. (“Flanders Fields” is attached below in full.)
The challenge we Americans and American freedom face today is from Islamic jihadist fanaticism — which openly seeks the death of freedom, and proclaims that Islamic jihadism will defeat and conquer America, destroy the Contstiution, and impose Sharia Law on Americans “because you [Americans] believe in life, and we [Islamic jihadists] believe in death.” I
In short, they exude confidence that they will defeat us and destroy freedom because they are willing, even eager to die, defending their cause in “holy war” (sic), no matter how misbegotten, and we, they believe, are no longer willing to die for freedom.
There can be no doubt that Muslim jihadist terrorism is as great a threat, if not greater, than was the threat to freedom of the totalitarian National Socialism (Fascism) of Adolph Hiter in WWII or the totalitarian International Communism of Lenin-Stalin-Mao-Ho Chi Minh-or Pol Pot in the Vietnam-era, which like Muslim jihadism sought world domination—the actual end of freedom, while proclaiming to provide “social justice” and “equality.”
Thus, another question raised by Memorial Day 2015 remembrance of those who gave their lives for our freedom is simply this: Can American freedom long survive if we, the heirs to the freedom preserved for us by those American veterans who came before us and gave their lives defending freedom, are no longer willing to fight — and to die, if necessary — to preserve freedom for those Americans who will come after us?
Will those American children at play on Memorial Day Holiday 2015, and their children, live in freedom tomorrow, if we are not willing to not pay the price for their freedom as did our American patriot ancestors to preserve our freedom?
May the sacrifice of each American who gave his or her life in defense of American freedom always be remembered, honored, and willingly emulated if the freedom for which they died is to endure.
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE — REMEMBER THE AMERICANS
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN WAR THAT WE MIGHT BE FREE:
American Wars: Killed In Action
Revolutionary War…………………………. 25,324
War of 1812………………………………… 2,260
Mexican War……………………………….. 13,283
Civil War……………………………………. 650,000
Spanish American War……………………. 7,166
World War I………………………………… 116,708
World War II…………………………………408,206
Korean War………………………………… 54,246
Vietnam War……………………………….. 58,223
Persian Gul War…………………………… 363
TOTAL KIA: 1,342,206
TOTAL MISSING IN ACTION: 83,126
In Flanders Fields
by Major John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
[For the full story on Flanders Fields and the Poppy tradition,
FOR GOD AND COUNTRY FOREVER; SURRENDER TO TYRANNY–NEVER!
(Rees Lloyd is a longtime California civil rights lawyer, veterans activist, and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.)