For Memorial Day, I’d planned to write about remembering our men and women in uniform. It’s a respectful sentiment but, the more I thought about it, I realized it’s often misplaced.

The fallen on the grassy fields of Lexington, the beaches of Normandy and the sands of the Middle East didn’t give their lives so we’d remember them. They didn’t leave behind spouses and children simply to have their names etched on a monument.

Remembering why they did it is everything.

Blame Donald Trump for eroding our faith in government. Tell me how Barack Obama wrecked our nation. Wax poetic about the Hollywood culture. It’s the Bible-thumping hate peddlers. Cable news. The internet. Black Lives Matter. The Tea Party.

For whatever we might believe is wrong with us, those we’re remembering knew there was something right enough that it warranted their very lives.

My sons and I were at the local Home Depot, and they spotted small flags on sale for Memorial Day. It led to a discussion about the holiday.

“Why would a soldier die for America?” my oldest son asked. Before I could answer, my middle son began waving the flag in his hand and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

“And to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” he proudly exclaimed.

“That’s the why,” I told them. “Because many soldiers believed America is a unique place where people are free.”

From regularly reciting the pledge, my sons already knew the answer. Most of us do. It’s time we start acting like it.

If we want to remember the lives lost in liberty’s defense, let’s try remembering what it means to be an American and act accordingly.

Be one nation. That means getting over ourselves and the fact we might not like the beliefs, opinions or practices of other free people. If we’re willing to divide our nation over things as simple as disagreement over what “under God” means in the pledge, we’re not seeing the critical importance of being indivisible. We often struggle to enjoy our freedoms prudently, but they’re the messy ties that bind us together.

Love liberty. I’ve taught my sons that liberty is “freedom plus responsibility.” The very idea of liberty itself will always be under threat. Free speech, free press, free exercise of religion, and a host of other civil rights pose a danger to political power all over the world and right here at home. We must defend liberty against those who seek to restrain it in the name of political expediency.

Pursue justice for all. Too often, we’ve failed to provide justice for everyone in our nation. Yet we’ve made slow progress toward a more just society. Even now, major criminal justice reforms are taking root around the nation. Applying our laws without regard to classifications such as race, religion or income-level must be our perpetual aspiration.

Enjoy the holiday, take a moment to reflect, but don’t forget this: So many died because they believed America and her people were worthy of their sacrifice. Remember those who paid the ultimate price by living like you understand why.

Image by Africa Studio


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