Gratitude is oft the most fleeting of all human emotions, but on this Memorial Day Weekend, the country sets aside a day to remember. Springing from a tradition after the Civil War, Americans have a 100+ year tradition of humbly celebrating those patriots that gave their lives for this country. In the 1860s, decorating the graves—Decoration Day—of soldiers started in South Carolina and slowly swept the entire union helping to heal the loss of more than 600,000 Americans. In 1967, the holiday was federally established Memorial Day.
This gratitude should extend to the patriots who gave all, and to their loved ones who lost much. It is hard to look at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., and not consider the families for every life lost that was irrevocably changed. Our American history owes gratitude to the million patriots and the millions of loved ones—this weekend we collectively say, “We remember and are grateful.”
When one considers the price paid by so many, it is hard not to be humbled. Consider the U.S. Marines early battle in World War I where in one day they suffered 9,063 casualties—1,062 deaths and 7,253 wounded—on a hill in France. Formerly Belleau Wood, the French renamed the hill “Bois de la Brigade de Marine.” It is humbling to think of the 1,062 letters that arrived at the Marines’ homes across our country and the pain that certainly ensued. It is even more humbling to bear in mind that was only one day of losses. In all, over 1 million Americans have given their lives in battle—that is humbling.
Yet, uniquely an American resilience celebrates these American lives. Perhaps, General George Patton said it best, “It is foolish to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” In the uniquely melded New Orleans culture, it is tradition to celebrate lives at funerals. It is in this grateful spirit, America collectively celebrates the men and women—heroes—who paid the price so America can be American. Thank you.