In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
-- Lt. Col. John McCrae
From Flanders fields to Iwo Jima, from the battlefields of Virginia to the beaches of Normandy, from Lexington and Concord to the desserts of the Middle East, American men and, increasingly, women, have laid down their life protecting the ideals we so cherish in America.
From the days of America's Revolution to today's struggle in Afghanistan, for than 666,000 American service members have died in combat. Another 674,000 have died from other causes -- mostly illnesses -- during wartime.
Some of those who died volunteered to serve. Others were volunteered. Either way, their service, their sacrifice is to be praised and honored and remembered.
This is the weekend America sets aside to do just that. It is right that we do so. Around the country, there will be parades and memorial services and public prayers for our war dead. Yes, there will be picnics and barbecues and trips to the beach on what is the first long weekend of the summer.
That we can have all of these activities is due in large part to those who sacrificed all for America and for Americans. Our freedoms did not come without cost and it is expensive in terms of lives to maintain them.
Thankfully, throughout our history, we have young Americans willing to step up and defend our freedoms. Fortunately, most of them have come home, although far too many continue to struggle after their military service has ended with lifelong physical and emotional wounds. This weekend, we remember them, too.
But this weekend we should most remember those who gave their life in service to us -- and remember the families they left behind.
Gen. George S. Patton said, "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived."
This weekend, we have much we should thank God for.
And thankful we are.