Commonwealth Journal

June 1, 2010

Honoring thosewho gave theirlives in service


The Tribune-DemocratJohnstown, Pa.

Somerset — In the years before he was nominated to the U.S.Supreme Court by President TheodoreRoosevelt, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was thevoice of remembering those who served.Memorial Day became an official holiday throughan act of the federal government in 1967. But acentury earlier, ours was a nation ripped asunder bya civil war.In 1882, with the smoke from those battles barelyfaded, the first Memorial Day was celebrated.Two years later, addressing a gathering of veteransin New Hampshire, Holmes offered these words thatresonate to this day, and whose meaning will be felttoday in cemeteries across the nation and here in ourregion:“So to the indifferent inquirer who asks whyMemorial Day is still kept up, we may answer: Itcelebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to yeara national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies,in the most impressive form, our belief that to actwith enthusiasm and faith is the condition of actinggreatly. To fight out a war, you must believesomething and want something with all your might.”Americans have fought wars for freedom, to opposethe threat of tyranny, to aid people of other nationswho faced oppression.Our soldiers are now battling terrorism in Iraq,Afghanistan and elsewhere around a troubled globe.Some of those soldiers will give their lives in theline of duty.They will join the long list of heroes we honor in theMemorial Days of our future.Holmes said:“Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us thinkof life, not death – of life to which in their youth theylent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, thegreat chorus of life and joy begins again, and amidthe awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers anddestinies of good and evil, our trumpets sound oncemore a note of daring, hope, and will.”Today, our nation pauses to honor those who gavetheir lives protecting that ideal in which we believeand want with all our might: Liberty.We urge you to join us in remembering those whoacted greatly for their country