WS>>Greater Love Hath No Man/VIEW FROM THE RIGHT

carl william spitzer iv cwsiv_2nd at JUNO.COM
Mon May 26 15:37:52 MDT 2003

          Friday, May 23, 2003
          Adam Sparks, Special to SF Gate

          "We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as  a
     final resting place for those who here gave their lives that
     that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and  proper
     that  we  should do this. But in a larger sense,  we  cannot
     dedicate,  we  cannot  consecrate,  we  cannot  hallow  this
     ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled  here
     have  consecrated  it  far above our poor power  to  add  or
     detract.  The world will little note nor long remember  what
     we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." --
     Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863

          Five  years  after Lincoln  pronounced  those  immortal
     words  for the dead on the Civil War battlefield at  Gettys-
     burg, Pa., Gen. John A. Logan proclaimed on May 5, 1868, the
     precursor  of the Memorial Day holiday.   Logan  established
     the observance, first known as Decoration Day, as a time  to
     honor  the  nation's  Civil War  dead  by  decorating  their
     graves.  Both the North and the South, in order to  commemo-
     rate the Civil War's fallen heroes, took up Logan's call. It
     was first widely observed on May 30, 1868.

          Logan declared that Decoration Day was "designated  for
     the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise  decorat-
     ing,  the  graves of comrades who died in defense  of  their
     country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now  lie
     in  almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in  the
     land.  It is the purpose to inaugurate this observance  with
     the hope that it will be kept from year to year."

          Congress  made  Decoration Day a  national  holiday  in
     1887.  The  reconciliation of North and South  was  a  major
     theme,  and, frequently, "Blue-Gray" reunions of  the  Civil
     War's survivors became an integral part of the early memori-
     al ceremonies.

          Today,  what is now called Memorial Day is observed  on
     the last Monday in May. Unfortunately, for many, the holiday
     is  merely  a day for barbecues and beer, and the  start  of
     summer.  Over  the  past few decades,  few   Americans  have
     employed the holiday for the purpose for which it was origi-
     nally proposed -- to attend both commemoration ceremonies at
     national cemeteries and generally modest and solemn  parades
     that  occur  throughout the nation. These  parades  are  not
     displays  of  military  might; rather,  they  are  dignified
     processions  to  honor the dead. But, following  9/11,  many
     things have changed. And the rising national patriotism  and
     corresponding respect for the brave men and women in uniform
     mark just some of those indelible changes.

          We Will Always Remember

          Our  fallen heroes have never been  totally  forgotten.
     Through  the past decades of neglect and unpopularity,  par-
     ticularly  following the Vietnam War, Boy Scouts  have  done
     and continue to do what most Americans do not: Each year, in
     all  our national cemeteries, including the  Presidio's  San
     Francisco National Cemetery, they decorate every grave  with
     an American flag.

          The   government  maintains  129  national   cemeteries
     throughout  the United States and Puerto Rico. More than  50
     of them have no space for additional graves. (After  topping
     out  at 30,000 spaces, the San Francisco  National  Cemetery
     stopped  new burials in 1992.) Almost 2 million  people  are
     buried  in  these  places. That's yeoman's  work  for  these
     dedicated Scouts. Our nation tips our hats to them.

          The  commemorations that occur this Memorial  Day  will
     take on a special significance in the holiday's 135-year-old
     history. Many Memorial Day ceremonies throughout the  nation
     will  pay  tribute to the fallen heroes of  Operation  Iraqi
     Freedom,  including the first woman in our nation's  history
     to  ever die in combat: PFC Lori Ann Piestewa,  an  American
     Indian from Arizona.

          President Bush and military leaders have now called  on
     Americans toinclude remembrances to the victims of Operation
     Iraqi Freedom in their prayers. Many Americans have  already
     responded  with trips to military-related sites  during  the
     past  few months. Battlefield parks and patriotic  memorials
     all  across America are reporting surging numbers  of  tour-

          Gen.  Joseph Ralston, who just retired as commander  in
     chief  of the U.S. European Command, in Stuttgart,  Germany,
     recently  called for a deeper commitment to  freedom.  "Much
     has  occurred  since we last marked Memorial  Day,  and  the
     enduring value of the freedom we cherish is now much  clear-
     er,"  said Ralston in his Memorial Day message. "The  tragic
     events ofSept. 11 remind us that while liberty may be  frag-
     ile,  with courage and sacrifice Americans are  willing  and
     able to defend it."

          More than 100,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines
     are  buried  on  European soil. They  fell  while  defending
     Europeans in two world wars. These fallen heroes will now be
     honored  this weekend, by both thankful Europeans and  proud
     Americans, at several national cemeteries spread  throughout
     Europe and administered by the American government.

          Why  would our soldiers give up their lives  to  defend
     Europeans?  What motivates soldiers is not hate,  but  love.
     Engraved  on the tombstones of many of the fallen in  Europe
     and  America is this simple biblical message: "Greater  love
     hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for  his
     friends" (St. John 15:13).

          The  National Cemetery Administration's Web site  lists
     Memorial  Day Commemoration events at cemeteries  throughout
     the  nation. There may be an event in a community near  you.
     Not everyone has a national cemetery nearby, but communities
     have different kinds of commemorations at various  locations
     such  as national parks, monuments,  battlefields,  American
     Legion posts or even Main Street, USA.

          The San Francisco Memorial Day Ceremony Schedule

          The San Francisco Memorial Day Ceremony will begin with
     a  small  but dignified parade from  the  Presidio's  Parade
     Ground  to the National Cemetery, about  a  one-quarter-mile
     route, plus a 21-gun Howitzer salute, a fighter-jet flyby of
     California  National Guard planes, music by San  Francisco's
     91st Division Pipes and Drums and a medley of service  songs
     by  the  Concord  High School Band. There  will  be  antique
     military  vehicles on display, speeches by real  heroes  =AD
     active-duty soldiers and veterans from four wars going  back
     to World War II -- and Mayor Willie Brown and other  politi-
     cal leaders. This is a great family day in the sun, so bring
     the kids.

          The  parade starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 26 at  the
     Parade  Grounds in the Presidio. The  commemoration  ceremo-
     nies,  held at the Presidio National Cemetery, begin  at  11
     a.m. Click here to find directions, ask questions and obtain
     more information.

          As this is also the 50th anniversary of the end of  the
     Korean  War, a special ceremony will feature Jong-hoon  Kim,
     consul general of the Republic of Korea, who will honor  our
     nation's fallen soldiers of that war.

          San  Francisco is a town that doesn't really honor  its
     living or fallen veterans, as evidenced by the poor  turnout
     for  these  commemorations. The San Francisco  Memorial  Day
     Parade committee asked the city for a mere $10,000 for  this
     year's commemoration and was given only $5,500 for  adminis-
     trative costs. The city paid more than $500,000 a day for  a
     period  of  several weeks in order to  control  the  raucous
     anti-war protests just a month ago. It had no trouble  find-
     ing  that money. But for the preservation of the  memory  of
     our fallen heroes, the message is clear: Here's five  stink-
     ing grand, and be thankful you get it.

          This  city  is also largely an anti-war town,  as  mass
     demonstrations opposing Operation Iraqi Freedom made  clear.
     However, many of the protesters said, presumably in earnest,
     that they honor and support the GIs but were merely opposing
     our government's involvement in the Iraqi liberation.  Well,
     maybe.  Let  see just how many of the tens of  thousands  of
     these protesters really support the troops. How many of them
     will  now  show up to pay their respects  on  Memorial  Day?
     Don't hold your breath.

          It  is clear to most veterans that quite a  few  people
     are  even  more anti-war than the San Francisco  peace  pro-
     testers,  including soldiers themselves. After all,  it  was
     Gen.  Douglas  MacArthur who said, "The soldier,  above  all
     others,  prays  for peace, for it is the  soldier  who  must
     suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."

          And  serving your nation in uniform is still among  the
     highest honors a citizen can perform for one's country, just
     as Thomas Paine declared famously in 1775: "These are  times
     that  try men's souls. The summer soldier and  the  sunshine
     patriot  will, in this crisis, shrink from the   service  of
     their country; but he that stands now, deserves the love and
     thanks of man and woman."

          The  bloodiest conflict in America's history  is  still
     the  Civil War, with an estimated 620,000 dead. But  do  you
     know  which  was our least bloodiest? It was, in  fact,  not
     Operation  Iraqi Freedom, despite the fact that  there  were
     just 186 American deaths in that speedy liberation. To  find
     this   answer and others, such as how many wars  the  United
     States  has had in its history, how many died in  each,  how
     each conflict ended and which were the longest and  shortest
     wars, click here.

          Support Our Troops

          Due to Operation Iraqi Freedom, thousands of  Americans
     are asking what they can do to show their support for  serv-
     ice members. There is much to do. Teach your children  about
     the barbarity of despotic rulers, the pure evil and  cruelty
     that  humans still inflict on other humans, the  tragedy  of
     war,  the  bravery of those who have fought  and  laid  down
     their  lives  for us, the respect they have earned  and  the
     honor we are obliged to give them on Memorial Day.

          "Your  silent  tents of green / We deck  with  fragrant
     flowers; / Yours has the suffering been, / The memory  shall
     be ours." -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

          I  share  the brimming pride that Longfellow  felt  and
     that our president still feels. Our president expressed  his
     feelings  perfectly when he said, "I'm proud of the  courage
     not only of the men and women of the military who  volunteer
     for battle but of the loved ones who remain behind. Not only
     am  I  proud of our military, I am proud of  the  wives  and
     husbands  and sons and daughters and moms and dads. And,  on
     behalf  of  a  grateful nation, we thank you,  as  well.  We
     appreciate your courage and your sacrifice." And thank  you,
     Mr. President. Well said.

          Those Left Behind Can Still Help in a Variety of Ways

          Attend a Memorial Day commemoration in your  community.
     Send  a greeting to a soldier via e-mail  through  Operation
     Dear  Abby.  May is National  Military  Appreciation  Month.
     Organize  a youth-group visit to a veterans' hospital.  Many
     members of our military serving overseas are enduring  seri-
     ous  financial  hardships with  their  families.Contact  the
     official  military-relief societies for the U.S.  Army,  the
     U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Air Force and  the
     U.S. Coast Guard.

          If  you  can't  contribute or bring your  family  to  a
     Memorial  Day commemoration, there's still more you can  do.
     Proudly  fly  a flag in front of your home.  Flag  kits  are
     available nearly everywhere. Reach out to military  families
     in your community, especially widows and those with a  loved
     one  overseas.  Thank Boy Scouts for paying tribute  to  the
     forgotten soldiers.

          Does  your child's school have lesson plans that  teach
     the  history of Memorial Day? Educate both your  school  and
     your child. It's now time to both remember and respect those
     heroes who have died so that we may live.

          "Day is done
           gone the sun
            from the hills
             from the plains
              from the sky
               all is well
                safely rest
                 God  is nigh." -- "Taps" (the soldier's nightly and
final lullaby)

          Adam Sparks is a San Francisco conservative writer.  He
     can be reached at adamstyle at

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