Today, we honor the memory of – and mourn for – Americans who lost their lives in war serving their country. We pray for the fallen: those who volunteered for service knowing the risk of death, those who were drafted and forced to fight.
Let us not forget the final moments. Taking a last breath in a French village in 1918. Falling to Japanese guns in Okinawa in 1945. Falling on a grenade to save your brothers at Inchon in 1950. Last moments volunteering to care for the dying in Vietnam in 1966. Saving the life of three servicemen by shielding the blast of a suicide vest with your own body in Iraq in 2007.
It is these stories multiplied by the hundreds of thousands, many with a common theme: they occurred thousands of miles away from home. Thus the American cemeteries worldwide, in England, France, Belgium, Italy, and the Philippines. The selflessness of the American soldier.
We honor them by remembering and praying for, and contributing to, their wives and husbands, their children, their parents and siblings, and their friends. Those who carry the grief of loss. The type of grief only those who share it will ever understand. Only those with the same experience know how impossible it can be to move on with life.
With today dedicated solely to the fallen, let there be clarity tomorrow for the nature of it all: the process that starts with a political decision to go to war – or a political decision to continue with a war.
In remembering the value of their lives, and to honor their sacrifice, let us condemn those who would use deception to rally public support for war. Let there be accountability for deceptive intelligence community efforts to keep wars going. Let us reject inserting ourselves in civil wars on the other side of the world, which often is a war for hegemony and not “democracy.”
And finally, let us today follow President Eisenhower in praying for permanent peace:
May 24, 1955
By the President of the United States of America
Whereas Memorial Day each year serves as a solemn reminder of the scourge of war and its bitter aftermath of sorrow; and
Whereas this day has traditionally been devoted to paying homage to loved ones who lie in hallowed graves throughout the land, having sacrificed their lives that war might end; and
Whereas in tribute to these silent dead it is fitting that we lift up our voices together in supplication to Almighty God for wisdom in our search for an enduring peace; and
Whereas the Congress, in a joint resolution approved May 11, 1950, provided that Memorial Day should be set aside as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day in that manner:
Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, Monday, the thirtieth of May, 1955, as a day of Nation-wide prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at eleven o'clock in the morning as a period in which the people of this Nation may unite in beseeching God to guide the nations of the world into the ways of peace.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.
DONE at the City of Washington this twenty-fourth day of May in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and fifty-five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and seventy-ninth.
To donate to the children of military personnel who lost their lives in active duty, please visit A Soldier’s Child Foundation.