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Fitting Memorial

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(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

(Author’s Note: This article is by John Mainer, HHH contributor.)

For those in the United States, this is Memorial Day weekend. This is the time the US gathers to remember those who gave their lives in the service of their nation, that the great experiment of the first great revolutionary Constitutional Republic could be allowed to stand.

First, don’t thank us for our service. If you can see current or former service folk on the street to thank, they did not fall in service, and it makes us feel wrong to receive thanks on a day that belongs to the Einherjar, the honoured dead.

This is Memorial Day, the day that belongs to the dead. They made the greatest sacrifice a free people can ask of its sons, and now daughters. They offered up their bodies, their skills, and their freedoms so that they could take up arms in the service of the Constitution, and the Republic for which it stands. They gave up their hopes and dreams of peace and plenty, when they were chosen by fate to pay the red coin of their own life’s blood for the freedoms we all enjoy. They did not ask to pay this coin, they understood it was a risk, and undertook that service knowing that it could be them that the cost will fall upon, and they served anyway. This is a gift beyond measure, a gift literally most people cannot understand the full scope of.

We have a poem that is read before the cenotaph to remind us of what it is we are to remember.

“They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.”

A gift for a gift is the way of Heathens. We do not expect to be given something for nothing, and we learn as we progress in our practice to recognize the gifts we have been given, and in all due reverence to not only honour them, but return them in full measure. We do this to our gods, to the wights of the lands, to our ancestors, to each other……..and to our dead.

What then is a fitting memorial to offer to those who fell in our service? What is it we should be mindful of on Memorial Day as we look upon the serried ranks of our war graves, and hear the roll call of those who marched away in our service, and never lived to march home?

“I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

This is the oath sworn by those who served, those who fell in your service. They swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

In the First World War, a doctor who served near Ypres, Belgium through the worst of that long and terrible campaign wrote this poem:

In Flanders Fields

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.

– John McCrae

The charge for the living is given here by the voice of our own war dead. To you they pass the torch, be it yours to hold high. If we break faith with them, if we allow the Constitution for which they fought to become an empty shell, a document whose protections are stripped away from the very folk these brave ones died to defend, then we will have broken faith with the dead.

You wish to give a fitting memorial on this Memorial Day? Remember that each of you, the living citizens of the great Republic of the United States of America may do what these, the honoured dead may not do. You may vote, you may challenge your politicians, your lawmakers, your courts to make sure the Constitution and the Republic whose freedoms it was created to establish, delineate and defend remains.

I will tell you a secret; if you ask a hundred soldiers about the country they love, you will receive a hundred answers about what that country is. That is what it means to be a republic forged from a thousand different immigrant experiences, the American truth, “E pluribus unum”; or “Out of the many come one”. This was put on the seal of the republic, and accepted as true, until enough cynicism existed to decide the right sort of people could define what would be permitted to be thought of as American.

From its founding, there never was one America, never was one culture, one right way to be American. Each founding colony had its own history and traditions, and each community within it had its own way of expressing and experiencing that. This is what the Founding Fathers enshrined protection for, and too often it is seen as something that it would be easier to simply do away with, as it would be more convenient to lead a people without any dissenting voices, without any different understandings.

Your living service folk can tell you what it looks like when you have religious indoctrination of your troops, when the laws of religion are deemed to be the guiding principals of your troops. Your service folk know what this looks like, because we spend their blood sweat and tears in these failed states trying to keep the brush fires of these intolerant, homicidal train wrecks of nations from burning the entire world. These troops serve not the people of their nation, but the intolerant religious ideologies of a few angry old men who would burn the world rather than permit any to dissent from what they view as right thought.

Those who have served along the 38th Parallel, or who remember service along the West German Border can tell you what it looks like when you have Political Officers ensuring the correct political orientation of the troops beneath them. This is the reality of Communism, where your troops do not serve the people, but the Party and its ideology. These troops are as much a whip against there own people as they are a shield against foreign foes. These troops serve not the people of their nation, but the intolerant political ideologies of a few angry old men who would burn the world rather than permit any to dissent from what they view as right thought.

Your fallen fell to prevent either of these visions from becoming the reality of the nation they marched away from. They fell holding the dream of a Republic that held its Constitution as its sacred founding truth, the one shared devotion of people who sprang from a hundred lands, may have spoken as many tongues at home, and prayed at as many different churches or none. They held this one belief that ALL of these different expressions had a place in an America in which freedom was the founding principal, and chief richness of their nation. This was a dream worthy of their sacrifice.

A gift for a gift. This Memorial Day, take stock, and make sure you are returning that gift in full measure, and making sure that the America they died to defend, you are fighting to keep alive. If there is room only for one voice, one truth, even if it is your own, understand that to get that unity, you had to first slay freedom.

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