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Have We Forgotten?

Friday, May 24, 2024 @ 07:02 AM Have We Forgotten? Matthew White The Stand Writer MORE

Over 1.1 million – that is the vast and ever-growing number of lives lost while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It represents those who made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of the freedom America enjoys today.

For every servicemember killed in combat, countless others were left at home to mourn their loss. Wives sacrificed their husbands, and some husbands sacrificed their wives. Children lost their parents, and parents lost their children. The true total is almost incalculable, and the sacrifices are often minimized or forgotten altogether.

An apathy toward remembrance

A 2019 Harris poll revealed that only 55% of over 2,000 adults questioned correctly described Memorial Day as a day to honor those who had given their lives while serving in the armed forces.

Nearly two decades earlier, a May 2000 Gallup poll showed only 28% of adults could correctly identify the holiday as a day set aside to honor fallen soldiers.

That is a trend in the right direction, and perhaps 20 years of war in the Middle East are responsible for the increased awareness of the sacred day. However, the fact remains that nearly half of this nation’s citizenry are ignorant of the holiday’s meaning.

In recent years, popular social media influencers have taken to the streets, beaches, and universities to conduct informal man-on-the-street interviews to gauge the public’s knowledge on a host of issues, including the meaning of Memorial Day.

Mark Dice, a popular conservative YouTuber, author, and media analyst, asked beachgoers in California if they knew what Memorial Day was all about.

The responses he received confirmed findings from both the Harris and Gallup polls. Many stood dumbfounded, unable to answer at all. Most responded with a simple “I don’t know” or “I don’t have a clue.”

Two other answers revealed a general apathy toward the meaning: “The only way I know it’s Memorial [Day] is because I don’t have work, and that’s all I care about,” one young man responded.

“I don’t really know. I really don’t care,” another responded. “For me, it’s just another bogus holiday.”

In a similar video from Dice, passersby, when questioned, agreed that Memorial Day was about LBGTQ rights in the military, commemorating the freeing of slaves at the end of the Civil War, celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and even joining NASA in honoring Neil Armstrong.

For many, Memorial Day is merely the unofficial start of summer, a break from work, or a chance to party. Little, if any, consideration is given to those who gave their lives for such freedoms.

An inability to forget

Those who have lost do not forget. A folded flag, given on behalf of a grateful nation and now resting on a mantle, serves as a reminder of the price of freedom.

An empty seat at the dinner table, a missing parent at a graduation or wedding, or a room that remains just the way the soldier left it  – these are all constant reminders that do not allow those who lost so much to forget.

The average American’s view of Memorial Day proves that freedom is taken for granted when it costs a person nothing.

The sentiment sheds light on the famous words of Thomas Paine: “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: It is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

(Editor's Note: This article was published first in May 2024 print edition of The Stand. Click HERE to receive a six-month complimentary subscription.)

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