Today marks the unofficial beginning of summer for many.
For Mainers, it marks the beginning of the time when we start seeing more and more out-of-state plates; when traffic clogs Route 1, especially near Wiscasset, and locals begin to use alternate routes; and when seasonal stores and restaurants begin to be open every day of the week.
Many of us are celebrating this weekend, along with the rest of the country, the usual way: with cookouts, a day at the beach, taking in some baseball, and spending time with family and friends. All of that’s perfectly fine, of course, but it’s important as we engage in these festivities that mark the arrival of summer that we remember the true meaning of Memorial Day.
America is a proud, patriotic country, and we have many holidays celebrating our nation, recognizing our unique place in the world. However, Memorial Day is special in our civil tradition, and it should remain special. Memorial Day is the day on which we recognize those who gave what Abraham Lincoln famously called the “last full measure of devotion” to this nation. It is only thanks to the sacrifices of our forefathers that we are all able to be here today, enjoying the blessings of liberty.
All of us are truly fortunate to live in the land of freedom and opportunity, and we should be thankful for that every day, but our liberty is no accident. There have been numerous attempts throughout the history of our country to wipe this great experiment from the face of the earth, and so far, we’ve been successful in defending against them all. We owe that success to those brave Americans who were willing to give their lives to defend our liberty.
Instead of merely celebrating the arrival of a new season today, take the time to honor our fallen. There are parades, ceremonies, and events across the state, so all of us have plenty of opportunities. We have the opportunity to speak to veterans, as well as to those who lost loved ones in battle, and hear their stories. Today is not a day for acrimonious debates: even if you didn’t approve of a particular conflict, you should still take the time to honor those who perished in it. This is a time to thank those who made that ultimate sacrifice for us, so that we might enjoy the blessings of liberty.
Even more than in words and events, though, we can honor our fallen heroes in deeds. We can honor them by making sure that their sacrifice was not in vain. Ronald Reagan once warned us that, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” He was absolutely correct, and it is important to remember that our freedom isn’t free. It does not happen automatically. It is a value that must be preserved and passed on to our children and our children’s children.
America is, truly, an exceptional nation. It is a grand experiment that is never fully complete, that is always being improved upon generation after generation. That is why so many over the centuries have been willing to take up arms, risking their lives under the most arduous of circumstances, so that their children and grandchildren could continue the grand experiment that is America. So, today, let’s take the time to honor those who gave their lives for our freedom, and today — and every day — let’s work to make sure that our children enjoy that same freedom.
Whatever our differences, that ought to be something that all of us can come together around and protect.