Free and undivided

This Gettysburg monument honors the 262 troops of the 1st Minnesota Infantry, who charged a force of 1600, buying time with an unprecedented 82% casualty rate.

This Gettysburg monument honors the 262 troops of the 1st Minnesota Infantry,
who charged a force of 1600, buying time with an unprecedented 82% casualty rate.

“Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic.” John A. Logan

Union General Logan was an important leader in the movement to recognize Memorial Day (then known as Decoration Day) as a national holiday.  No doubt he carried a heavy burden of devastating memories, having seen first hand the tragedy of Americans taking up arms against each other.

Logan probably was not thinking of picnics and ball games and long weekends when he pushed for an official day of remembrance.  But when I hear the words “Memorial Day,” those are the things I think of, along with hot dogs and warm weather and the resulting traffic nightmares as so many people hit the road to have fun.

Have we forgotten the cost that was (and is) paid to buy us our freedom?  Sometimes it seems we have, and never more so than when our political discourse spirals downward into vulgar, often petty personal attacks.  Are these sorts of controversies really worth squandering the unity that people died to save?  Would our ancestors be ashamed of us?

Even today, it’s not hard to imagine that people who are facing genocide, epidemic disease, starvation and political oppression might see us as ignorant, or worse, decadent.  Are we too distracted by diversions to care?

I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s holiday parade, but I hope that we will take a few moments today to reflect on the sacrifices of men and women whose lives were without the health, hope and happiness that we take for granted.  Let’s honor them by remembering.

22 Comments

  1. Anon E. Moose

    Author Name:
    John Stuart Mill
    Quote:
    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse. The person, who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    • Thanks, Eric. Coincidentally, I’m in the middle of writing a paper on John Stuart Mill (among others) this week. Max Lerner said J. S. Mill was “a towering intellectual who is as fresh as tomorrow morning’s newspaper and as relevant as the latest publicized crisis of our time.” Mill was born in 1806, and Lerner wrote that in 1961, but based on your quote, it’s still applicable.

  2. Steve Bodford

    No rain at all Julia ! A wonderful message of remembrance and praise that should be shared in our words to one another, our children, and to those that don’t know the high cost of being free. Happy Memorial Day Julia to you and your family!

    • Thank you Steve. I hope you and your family had a nice weekend too!

  3. Cherie

    Julia, I will be honoring all the militay men and women who have died to make us FREE. I don’t want wars fought, but I honor the men and women that go to that often tragic war. Like I have said before, I have had family members in all the wars since the Revolutionary War. Even before that, with the Indian War after they arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. I pray for the day when we will make war NO MORE! Love to you and the family! Love and Light! Cherie

    • Cherie, that must be so fascinating, to have traced your roots that far back. Our York home is close to Jamestown. I join you in praying for peace and safety for everyone. War is devastating to even think about, but we need to remember how costly it is. Hope you and Ron had a nice holiday weekend.

  4. Have a wonderful Memorial Day and thank your husband for me for his service to our country. My dad was a lifer who did not know how to live without the military as his family. My first husband served 3 years during Vietnam. It’s hard to not remember in this house. Freedom isn’t free.

    • Marlene, not only is freedom not free, it’s not even an option for far too many people in this world. I didn’t realize you were a military kid! And also a military wife. I’ve found there are so many people who have some tie to military service, particularly among our parents’ generation. Thank you for saying thank you! 🙂

      • It does give us a unique perspective.

        • Yes, and on the whole, I think the rewards are greater than the sacrifices.

  5. Wileygrit

    As a Vietnam veteran I continually think about how that changed my life forever. Not only the loss of friends and comrades, but how in that political era we were thought of. Being told not to wear our uniforms on leave, much less in public for fear of being spit on or being called baby killers. I remember retuning home on leave to Winston- Salem. The city was under curfew as it was also a time of civil unrest on top of everything else. I fear the same complacency is ever present today as I see our military shrinking in a time of ever present danger here and abroad.
    Your picture of the Vietnam Memorial reminds me of the tears I have shed standing there. They were all a down payment in our Freedom!

    • Thank you W. I look back on the Vietnam era and wonder how our country survived all the shameful and awful things that went on during those very rough years. It may be cold comfort, but our time at Walter Reed convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt that the USA has learned its lesson about supporting the troops regardless of the political aspects of the conflict. We have been touched and proud at the supportive words and deeds of so many people.

      Until I saw The Wall for the first time, I didn’t realize what an effective tribute it is. I had read about it and thought it sounded too plain. In person, though, the impact of that sea of names on that cold black granite is unforgettable. Numbers can become so meaningless, but seeing 50,000+ names all at once is staggering to contemplate. It’s hard not to shed a few tears there, even when one is distantly removed from the reality.

  6. Amy

    I was recently reading a fiction book but based in some truth and it made me realize how many people there are at any given time quietly protecting America in some way. We tend to only think of the ones in the news or those up front but in reality there are many who will never be known by any but their families. I have thought of that so much and each time I take a minute to thank God for those I don’t know, will never know and those I have known who give their lives to protect us. I pray that all will remember and never let the sacrifice be in vain.

    • Amy, as our friend Ashleigh Brilliant said, “Most of us life in safety, only because some of us are always willing to face danger.” It’s far too easy to forget that, isn’t it? Even for those of us who have heard that phone ringing in the middle of the night for a readiness recall…

      Hope you are all doing OK. I’m crazy busy with school, but maybe we can get together while Matt is at camp for a few days next month.

      • Amy

        Please call if you need me. I love that quote from Ashleigh. Praying for you and your family.

        • Thank you Amy.<3

  7. MaryAnn

    I totally AGREE with you that we have the wrong priorities right now! I am not saying ignore the family & friends enjoying the day. Just keep it in perspective: could we be doing all these fun activities in a dictatorship? Learning from history is paramount!
    Yesterday, you were on my mind more than usual. You, my dear Julia, have stated a tradition for me. Each year since you gave me such great encouragement, I have begun the Veteran’s quilt on Memorial Day weekend. Then, in November, I donate it to Mission Solano to give to one of the veterans. They built a home for homeless vets to give them a new start.
    Thank you for being you!!!

    • Mary Ann, that is so cool. I deserve NO credit for that! You just give in hundreds of ways all the time. I love hearing about Mission Solano. I still miss the fabulous NorCal Republic and have not given up on getting back there for a visit…

  8. Raynard

    Thank you Julia.When you try to paint a word picture of memories,some you guns give you a blank stare.Others a child like smile that you want to sing We are the world I like to teach the world to sing’I digress. Only going to share this with you. I just cough cough found out recently my wife likes action movies ala Captain America. But I took her her aunt and a friend to see drum roll please Angry Birds lol. As Homer Pyle use to say Surprise,Surprisw Surprise they all like it including me very funny movie.I ate so much BBQ yesterday I felt like a conjoined twins Fat Albert and The Eddie Murphy version of The nutty Professor lol be blessed

    • Raynard, I simply have to see the Angry Birds to see what all the fuss is about. Also that movie with all the minions in it. I’m way out of the loop when it comes to movies. But you quoted my all time favorite Marine.

      I had my usual Memorial Day treat of eating hot dogs this weekend, something I only allow myself to do on 1. Memorial Day 2. July 4 or 3. at a baseball game, which I get to go to an average of less than once a year– we like to go see the Norfolk Tides play – a wonderful stadium and cool ocean breezes. Lately I’ve felt a bit like Fat Albert myself, but it’s all for a good cause (fun). I’m glad you gave the ladies a special night out at the movies. Give them a hug for me.

  9. Good morning, Julia! On this Memorial Day, I happened to hear the “Ballad of Ira Hayes” for the first time, which inspired me to look up “survivor’s syndrome.” I was a bit disappointed to read that “when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) was published, survivor guilt was removed as a recognized specific diagnosis, and redefined as a significant symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” (Wikipedia)
    I think that the cause is so specific that I’m concerned that by lumping it into such a broad category, efforts to help such people may be impeded or minimized. I can’t imagine how the survivors of the Minnesota 1st Infantry must have felt in the aftermath, mixed with feelings of both failure and success.

    • Susan, I think a lot of people were not too happy with some of the DSM-IV changes. I’ve heard or read several professionals take issue with one or more of the revisions. I agree that PTSD is getting to be too huge a category to lump everything into it without differentiation. It seems that treatment for various forms would not be a “one size fits all” but I guess they depend on the individual practitioner to deal with the nuances.

      It’s funny you mentioned the “Ballad of Ira Hayes” – that’s a song I had never heard of myself, until Jeff told me about it a couple of years ago. I think I mentioned it in a blog post.

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