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The passing of time often dims or erases memories. A danger emerges when a society centers on abundance of material goods and personal liberty while forgetting recorded history.

As crowds line parade routes, do parents ever try to impress their young ones with the solemnity of the occasion? Are these youngsters made to appreciate the sacrifices made so that they might enjoy the freedom of watching bands and marching units pass in review?

In less than four short years, have we too easily forgotten the horrible fate of a U.S. sailor, brutally beaten, shot to death and dumped on the runway at the Beirut airport?

In striving to maintain our sovereignty we get disgruntled when the harsh reality of terrorism confronts us, either on the tarmac at Beirut or in the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland. Such episodes become the horrendous cost of freedom.

Carl Sandburg wrote, "When a nation goes down, or a society perishes, one condition may always be found; they forgot where they came from." History is a harsh teacher. She tells us that too much liberty brings on bondage. Possibility suggests it is time we paid history more attention!

As we celebrate Memorial Day, let us not look on it as simply a day off from work, an occasion for another parade or family gathering. Let us primarily consider the solemnity of the occasion measured in terms of the great sacrifices made by our nation's dead, whether on the battlefield or in the arenas of science, medicine or education. We should try to recall the inspiring inaugural address of John F. Kennedy, when he exhorted, "Ask not..."

We must rededicate Memorial Day as a time of renewed interest in the state of our country -- not simply in terms in which some elected officials view it but in the harsh realities of where we seem headed. Focus constantly on what is best for America, not what is in our own best self-interest. Ideally, such an attitude will foster concern sufficient to avoid having a body politic and economic whose self-interests are so hard to pierce that even the worst of crimes become a mere conversation piece allowing us to cleanse our consciences.

And, as Flag Day quickly follows Memorial Day, I can think of few more heart-throbbing sights than a journey from street to street where residences, businesses and public buildings are graced by our nation's glorious flag.

God Bless America! Long may her banner wave, that we may remain a free nation, indivisible, under God, with liberty and justice for all. With such thoughts foremost in our minds, then will we genuinely and meaningfully celebrate the memory of what many died for. To do less is to impinge upon the solemnity of the occasion and render an injustice to those whose selfless sacrifices permit us the freedom of our times. To do less may place our future at risk.


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