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-
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 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
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
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
God is nigh." -- "Taps" (the soldier's nightly and
Adam Sparks is a San Francisco conservative writer. He
can be reached at adamstyle at aol.com
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