Memorial Day 2016
All gave some. Some gave all.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious
training—sacrifice. In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine
attributes which his Maker gave when He created man in His own image. No physical
courage and no brute instinct can take the place of divine help which alone can sustain
him. General Douglas MacArthur, West Point, 1962
Memorial Day 2016 is a time to reflect upon the national treasure, heavily laden with
mostly youthful dreams and vigor that has, over time, been offered upon the sacred altar
of liberty. The selfless sacrifice, a fulfillment of an oath freely taken, was offered to
“protect and defend the Constitution” and our cherished way of life.
It all began at sunrise on the freshly greening fields of Lexington on a foreboding yet
monumental April 19, 1775. By sundown in Concord, 49 patriots had died and 39 had
been wounded, both black and white, 18 from Rev. Jonas Clark’s congregation in
Lexington and many from Rev. William Emerson’s congregation in Concord. The shot
heard round the world rang out and thus began a legacy of supreme giving that now
extends to the barren terrain of Afghanistan. To date over 1.3 million Americans have
died in the service of the nation.
In order to fully appreciate the magnitude and impact of this sacrifice a brief review of
one of these wars may be useful. The War Between the States, 1861-1865, resulted in
over 625,000 combat deaths, (364,500 Union and 260,000 Confederate), or about half of
the total of the nation’s war related military deaths.
This represented a sustained average rate of 600 killed-in-action per day and totaled 1.9%
of the American population. Often the order of magnitude of such events is lost in
history. Consider this; a comparable proportional rate today would be over 6 million
military personnel killed to say nothing of the havoc on the economy and the culture in
You may not be aware that the actual, though unofficial, origin of Memorial Day can be
traced to Charleston, SC and to the present day Hampton Park. In 1865 this area, known
then as the Washington Race Track, had been turned into a temporary prisoner-of-war
camp. During the camp’s operation over 257 Union prisoners died and were buried on the
grounds in a mass common grave.
Soon after the Confederate surrender the bodies were exhumed, mostly by former slaves,
and properly re-interred individually in a marked cemetery, complete with white picket
fence. All of this was accomplished in a 10 day period. On May 1, 1865 the Charleston
newspaper reported that up to 10,000 people, mostly black residents, including 2800
school children, attended the new cemetery’s dedication. The ceremony included a
procession, sermons, singing and a picnic on the grounds.
Memorial Day 2016, would be an ideal time to reflect upon this tapestry of selfless
sacrifice so carefully woven into our national heritage. Try to make it personal by
remembering a classmate, family member, friend, or neighbor who has “given all”,
perhaps in the more recent War On Terror.
I always try to concentrate on the ever fading memory of my 44 squadron mates (Navy
Seawolves) or others I trained with or were in school with. They were warriors once and
young…Nilon, Jim, Antonio, Mark, Dan, Paul, Jose, Bill, Richard…I do remember
But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them,
glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it. Thucydides (460 BC- 395 BC)
“Barney” Cdr USN® 2