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“It is for you to try to be like them.”
Pericles’ Funeral Oration

I have to admit a problem that I’ve had with Memorial Day. I’ve often let my thoughts move too easily to the fact that some fallen warriors are not the best examples of what we want to remember. I’ve found myself thinking: were they all truly patriotic? Were they really brave, and willing to die? Or perhaps, did they die in a conflict where American soldiers should not have been there anyway?

And I am ashamed. They deserve more. From me.

The simple fact of their death should be enough. More than enough. Of course some who have fallen in the line of duty stand out as especially exemplary; and it is fitting that their stories are told and remembered in a special way. But a fundamental premise of Memorial Day is that all who have fallen are worthy to be honored. And perhaps above all, simply worthy to be remembered, with real gratitude.

They have died in the service of their country, which is my country. They have thus died for me. For me. So regardless of anything else, I resolve to remember them, to honor them, and to pray for them, and theirs. And even somehow to try to be like them.

Pericles (495-429 B.C.), a great general, statesman, and orator, ruled Athens during its Golden Age. Several of his speeches are recorded by Thucydides (460-395 B.C.) in his History of the Peloponnesian War. One of the most famous is the funeral oration for fallen Athenian soldiers.

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