The armed forces have always inspired me. Movies, books and songs are written about great events in our history that in some cases could only happen because a guy stood up and grabbed a rifle and did something heoric. Memorial Day was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1868, at a time when the U.S. Civil War was still fresh in the minds of everyone. It was so named in honor of those that gave the lasting and eternal sacrifice, on both sides of that conflict. It did not become an official holiday until 1967. On this day and again on Veteran's Day, I often think of the words of Abraham Lincoln.
In 1864, Lincoln was encouraged to write a letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby. It was thought that she had just lost her 5th son since the onset of war. Lincoln's letter to her is prescient:
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,