memorial day is a day we dedicate to the dead - to remember those who fell in defense of this country and the ideals which this country stands for. we may want, therefore, some drape of patriotism, some nod toward a higher motive more than mere circumstance, but not too much lest we trivialize the individual loss or somehow glorify the waste of youth and joy.

those who forfeited their lives, they chose, or were sometimes required, to live in a manner which brought them in harm's way, and to that harm they fell.

our task is not to validate the sacrifice but to acknowledge it, to remember that it was made. we should do so, not out of guilt - what guilt should we own in surviving, in continuing as they laid down their lives to insure. but we should do it with humility - most of us have done nothing to earn that continuing. and if any validation is necessary, it is for we the living to prove that we are worthy of the sacrifice through dedication toward the peace that was purchased by these honored dead.

sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
on this field of the grounded arms,
where foes no more molest,
nor sentry's shot alarms!
 
ye have slept on the ground before,
and started to your feet
at the cannon's sudden roar,
or the drum's redoubling beat.
 
but in this camp of death
no sound your slumber breaks;
here is no fevered breath,
no wound that bleeds and aches.
 
all is repose and peace,
untrampled lies the sod;
the shouts of battle cease,
it is the truce of God!
 
rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
the thoughts of men shall be
as sentinels to keep
your rest from danger free.
 
your silent tents of green
we deck with fragrant flowers
yours has the suffering been,
the memory shall be ours.
henry wadsworth longfellow