Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day Tribute and Facts

On Memorial Day we honor the men and women who paid the ultimate price for being an American. Each deserves to be remembered, to be kept alive, for just a little longer. There are hundreds of thousands of them, and even the millions of us who are indebted cannot possibly say all of their names. But we can pick just one - from a history book, a news report, war memorial or grave marker - and say it aloud on Memorial Day. We can give it weight, relevance, life. We can say it while we’re at the beach, at a barbecue, driving a car, or working around the yard. That one name may get us thinking about the freedoms we exercise but do not always cherish. And it may remind us that in this life, no hour can ever be too precious, no day too mundane.

National Anthem

Here are the first 4 stanzas of the National Anthem:

Oh! say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

“Ramparts,” in case you don’t know, are the protective walls or
other elevations that surround a fort. The first stanza asks a question.

The second stanza gives an answer:

On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mist of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep.
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream
‘Tis the star-spangled banner. Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

“The towering steep” is again, the ramparts. The bombardment has
failed, and the British can do nothing more but sail away, their mission
a failure. In the third stanza, I feel Key allows himself to gloat over
the American triumph. In the aftermath of the bombardment, Key probably
was in no mood to act otherwise.

During World War II, when the British were our staunchest allies,
this third stanza was not sung. However, I know it, so here it is:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The fourth stanza, a pious hope for the future, should be sung more
slowly than the other three and with even deeper feeling:

Oh thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven - rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation
Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
And this be our motto –”In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Here are the lyrics for Taps, the tune most often played honoring the fallen brothers. It's also played at the end of each day on military bases.


Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lakes, from the hills, from the skies,
All is well, safely rest.
God is nigh.

Then good night, peaceful night,
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright,
God is near, do not fear
Friend, good night.

Composed By Major General Daniel Butterfield
Army of the Potomac, Civil War

This bugle call was written during the Peninsula Campaign of the
Civil War in the year 1862 after a battle near Richmond, Virginia
which saw a large number of Union causualties. It is said that the
tune came to then Brigade Commander Colonel Daniel Butterfield,
while reflecting sadly on the losses. According to the story,
Butterfield unable to write music, hummed it to his aide who wrote
it down in musical notation. It was performed that evening by his
bugler, Oliver W. Norton in honor of fallen comrades. In 1874,
it became officially recognized by the U.S. Army as an alternative
to "Lights Out" and since has been used not only a signal that day
was done, but also as means of saying good-bye to a fallen comrade,
usually accompanied by the drumbeat, Muffled Ruffles. It is customarily
played at military funerals across the land.

"I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom." Abraham Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Bixby

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." Ronald Reagan

Make sure to take a moment this weekend to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Whether you believe in today's war or wars of past, remember it is those who sacrificed their all to allow you the privilege of freedom. One day soon, this privilege will disappear only to be replaced by man's right to enjoy freedom. Until that day arrives, we honor those brave individuals who quietly and courageously brought order from the chaos.

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