I returned from a parade and ceremony Monday at the Benwood cemetery to remember those who gave their last full measure. In over 65 clashes, battles, wars, and conflict since the American Revolution, over 1.3 million Americans have died and now rest in hallowed ground around this world.
Why? What is it which has taken our brightest and best to spill their blood so others may be free? Perhaps the words so eloquently written of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness given by our Creator mobilized men and women to share these ideals where they are lacking.
What is the obligation of the living this day? Again, words spoken on another battlefield, this time of American against American, should remind us of this debt. Abraham Lincoln ended his Gettysburg Address this way: "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Lincoln saw the division of this country a hindrance for the United States to spread God given rights to others. "Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere." - September 11, 1858 speech at Edwardsville, Ill.
Another great president would contemplate words much like these. President Kennedy wrote, "We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world."
Along with President Kennedy, over 300,000 honored dead reside in Arlington Cemetery. Those and all of the rest of those honored dead received for their service a plot of ground measuring six feet, by three feet, by six feet deep. We owe them, all of them, the courage, commitment, and character to see to it this nation will survive. We owe them the duty to ensure freedom for all who seek it. We owe it to them to abolish tyranny of any kind and to ensure we remind the world these rights are not American given rights but God-given rights.
Reverend Dr. Steven Mentzer