Today in the United States we pause to celebrate Memorial Day. Most will celebrate it with picnics, boating, ball games, swimming, family, and friends. A few will pause for those remaining public celebrations to commemorate the day. Fewer still will visit the graves of those fallen for the sake of freedom or know when this commemoration began or the cost for those who gave us the freedom to celebrate it.
Originally it was called Decoration Day and that is the name I recall when I was a young child. It’s purpose? To provide a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America.
It was born out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. General John Logan, national commander of the grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed the day officially on May 5, 1868, and asked that the 30th of May 1868 be designated for the purpose of strewing the graves of those who had died in the defense of their country with flowers and flags.
Most of us would not recall that Memorial Day began with that bloodiest of all United States wars. The country would be torn in two with the Union of the North raising an army of 2,128,948 and the Confederacy of the South mustering a total of 1,082,119 troops. It was a war that would be fought in thousands of places from southern Pennsylvania to Texas, from New Mexico to Florida with the majority of the battles fought in Virginia and Tennessee.
Between April 12, 1861, when Fort Sumter, South Carolina, was fired upon until April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, 620,000 would die for the cause they believed in. They would die from combat, accident, starvation, and disease. Of that number, the three-day battle on the fields around Gettysburg, PA, would see the largest number fall. A total of 51,000 would be dead by the end of the battle.
It can be easy to forget how significant the losses were during the Civil War. Yet, our love for freedom would stir the hearts of others to serve in battles far from our own coastline. In World War II 405,399 would give their lives following the brutal conditions faced during World War I when 116,516 would fall in battle.
Of course these would not be the only battles where men and women would give their lives for the cause of freedom. In Vietnam we would sacrifice 58,209 and Korea we would lose 36, 516.
To establish this nation, 25,000 would die in the Revolutionary War. Another 20,000 would die in the War of 1812 and 13,283 in the Mexican War. The Spanish-American War would result in a loss of 2,446.
More recently 6,626 would be lost in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan with another 258 falling during the Gulf War.
How much do we value this freedom? How much do we take it for granted or use it to serve our own ends rather than for the good of our brothers and sisters?
When we speak of a fight for freedom, men and women, despite their fear or condition, held the value for liberty and the release of tyranny so foremost among their beliefs that they were willing to leave those they loved most to serve those they had never met.
As I took time to visit a small country cemetery in Ohio near where I live, I was struck as I always am by the number of American flags that had been placed on the graves of our veterans. This cemetery is adjacent to a church founded in the 1840’s.
In the oldest part of the cemetery where the gravestones are often not readable, I found flags adorning the graves of two Civil War veterans. One had died in 1865 and another in 1866. I read their names: James Turner and James Shaw. I wondered what they had seen in their time on the battlefield and if their deaths shortly after the war came as a result of wounds that never healed.
We can never repay the debt we owe to so many.
We can also never repay the debt we owe to the One who came to give us grace and freedom from sin, the One who suffered for us at great expense to purchase what we could not gain without His payment.
In the midst of all the fun and celebrating we may do this day, let us not forget to be thankful, to sober our hearts, to give thanks for so many who gave all they had for our sakes. Let us also thank God for His love beyond measure in what He sacrificed for us.
Freedom is never free.
Others will always want to take it from us, to enslave us. Let us remember to cherish it, not abuse it for our own selfish ends, or fail to recognize the responsibility we have to uphold and guard it as a result of the great cost paid to grant it.
12 thoughts on “What Cost Freedom?”
Beautiful post and thank you for sharing with us this week at Celebrate Your Story, and have a great weekend.
You’re absolutely right, freedom doesn’t come free and we should be thankful everyday to those who gave their lives to make the world a better place for us to live in. To love, respect and contribute to improve the world a little bit everyday is the least we can do to honor their sacrifice.
Thank you for joining The Really Crafty Link Party, and have a wonderful weekend!
Thanks so much, Teresa!
Beautiful! I had no idea it started with the Civil War. Thank your for educating us!
oops— I meant Thank you. *blush*
What a beautiful, thoughtful tribute! I appreciated reading your words this morning even though I’m a day late. Our society takes for granted the bloodshed that delivered the freedom we love. I cringe every time I hear elitist bashing our country for whatever reason. In their twisted thoughts they believe America is evil and they use their platform as a singer, actor, or politician to spouting out their discontent. We have a generation of entitled people who feel they everything is owed to them not through or by their hard work but by others. It’s a shame how far our country has fallen but I know there are those such as yourself who value the past for the future we live and do not take for granted of the sacrifices made. Thank you for sharing such a touching post in memorial of those who gave their all so that we can enjoy it all! God bless America!
Thanks, Cathy! I clearly have many similar feelings. Our hope must always be in the God who raised up this nation with sound values and principles and stand for those as much as we possibly can!
Being a vet, thank you for your post. Too many people just think it is about drinking, getting the BBQ fired up and having a good time. It is not, it is to remind us about how we get to keep our freedoms in this country and the people that have served and are serving now.
Here is a blog I did on Friday about the Golden Gate National Cemetery: http://csuhpat1.blogspot.com/2017/05/goldern-gate-national-cemetery.html
Thank you for this post.
I am so glad you stopped by and were blessed by what I shared. My husband is a vet as well and I have deep feelings about the value of men and women who risk so much for those of us who too seldom pause to consider the sacrifice to them and their families.
I very much enjoyed your post and checked it out!
Amen, and amen.
Dear Pam … yes, freedom comes at a cost. And that cost can come in many ways, shapes, and colors. Thanks for the gentle reminder.
We have so very much to be grateful for.
Thanks, my friend! Yes, it does!!