Salute a: to address with expressions of kind wishes, courtesy, or honor b: to give a sign of respect, courtesy, or goodwill to: to honor.
They were ordinary men and women who stood to lose everything they held dear, for simply the love of God and what is honorable, said, “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Though not the most quoted words contained in the Declaration of Independence, these men not only wrote those words, they also lived them.
Likewise, all those who voluntarily followed in their footsteps gave, as Abraham Lincoln said, “their last full measure of devotion” providing for each of us in the United States of America. Freedom that many citizens of the world yet today long to experience and enjoy. Let me encourage you this year as you plan the picnics, celebrate with graduates, and enjoy this precious freedom that you take the time to remember, give thanks and display respect.
Some time ago, I found a quote from actor Jimmy Smits, who at the 2007 National Memorial Day concert shared this fitting reminder, “All of us who have lost loved ones know the searing pain of grief. We know how difficult it is, even impossible, to let go. Grief is our wound, the hole inside us left by each precious life that has been taken from us, an emptiness that indeed can never be filled by anyone else. We go on with our lives; we must. But tonight, as we remember those who have died for our country, let us be reminded that grief is a sacred wound. So, let us respect our own grieving; for it is, after all, an expression of our love. And it is an honoring of those who died for us. Let us be assured that the feeling we call grief. Its shock and sadness, its anger and confusion, and most of all its loneliness — is our way of saying, “We love you.”
Abraham Lincoln spoke from his heart on the back of an envelope on November 19, 1863. “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work, which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their 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 the government of the people and by the people shall not perish from the earth.”
As we remember lives given for freedom’s cause, let us not forget the greatest sacrifice of all. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” And he did lay down his life for them, and each of us. The deserving and the undeserving, the caring and the uncaring, the good, the bad and the ugly were on his mind as he died on the cross. And the battle he fought was not just to give us physical freedom that would last to the end of our brief existence, but eternal freedom from the struggle and the bondage of sins grip. So, as we remember those who died for our freedom let us never forget the one who gave his life for the liberation of our soul.
In his book, The Kingdom Exposed, George Jenkins writes, it is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, “What will you give me if I release you?” “The half of my wealth,” was his reply. “And if I release your children?” “Everything I possess.” “And if I release your wife?” “Your Majesty, I will give myself.” Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, “Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man!” With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, “I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you, the one who was willing to give himself for me.”
It is hard to take our eyes off those courageous examples of bravery and valor from untold numbers of Americans who are a part of our military heritage. We celebrate and salute each of them and as we do may we pass along that heartfelt appreciation to another generation we desperately need to hear the stories of their heroism. To those who have laid upon the altar of freedom the greatest sacrifice… we salute you!