By The Editors. Media: National Review.
When Abraham Lincoln stood on the Gettysburg battlefield in November 1863, the American people were adrift in a sea of blood. The United States was just 87 years old, and yet the country that had been “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” was caught in the terrible inferno of a great Civil War.
Lincoln told the crowd assembled for the dedication of the battlefield and its cemetery that it was “altogether fitting and proper” that men should memorialize “those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.”
On this Memorial Day, we should follow Lincoln’s example. We should remember the young doughboys who stopped the Imperial German Army in its tracks on the Marne and then drove what had been the world’s best army back through the Argonne. We should remember the sailors and pilots who went toe to toe with the so-far invincible Kidō Butai — the Japanese battle fleet and Zeros — over Midway, and through guts and sacrifice turned the tide of the Pacific War. We should remember the First Marine Division at the Chosin Reservoir, cut off, outnumbered, and surrounded, in subzero temperatures, fighting its way back through the attacking Red Chinese to friendly lines. We should remember the Air Force bomber crews braving clouds of flak and swarms of MiGs over Hanoi. And we should remember the men and women who fought and bled and died in the hot, dusty streets of Fallujah and the cruel mountains of Kunar.
Today, we remember all those who not only put on their country’s cloth, but who never came home.
Remembering, however, is not enough. “It is for us the living,” as Lincoln told us, who need to dedicate ourselves 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.
As a free people of citizens — not subjects — we owe it to the men who have shed their blood in our defense to take up not merely our rights but our duties and our responsibilities too: to our families, to our communities, and to our country.
For 247 years, Americans have gone forth to war in defense of home and our liberties, and some have not come home. In solemn gratitude, remember them this Memorial Day. Tomorrow, we should all remember to live up to their memory.
THE EDITORS comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.