Memorial Day is a day on which we remember that the sacrifices of others is for naught if our work does not seek to preserve what theirs did.
Today in America, we celebrate Memorial Day. Decoration Day was its original title when it was first instantiated by General John A. Logan on May 5th 1868. He declared, “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
In the wake of the Civil War, the General — at that time the leader of an organization for Norther Civil War veterans — saw a need to remember those who died in the Civil War. This organization of veterans, no doubt an institution of civil society, brought about a tradition in America through which we might not only express our gratitude for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice but an opportunity to realign ourselves with their mission.
Despite our faults and errors as individuals, as groups, as administrations, the aim after which our country strives is still worth striving for. In no small part because of the institutions of civil society that we all make up and which spur our country on in our quest for a more perfect union, a more perfect freedom.
The family, our churches, our community nonprofits, schools, social clubs, political organizations . . . all of these and more are meant to carry on in some small way the work of those who have fallen. Therefore, not only must we remember these men and women, but we must remember that their sacrifice is for naught if our work does not seek to preserve what theirs did.
Memorial Day is a day on which we honor those who think as Major Sullivan Ballou did in 1861 and seek to align our aims with his. He wrote:
Not my will, but thine, O God be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battle-field for any country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American civilization now leans upon the triumph of government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution, and I am willing, perfectly willing to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.