Memorial Day

I’ve been thinking about Memorial Day lately, and all that the men and women who didn’t return from battle gave to you and me.

My thoughts led me to one of my favorite quotes ever.

Teddy Roosevelt described our national ethos when he said:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who – at the worst – if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

We, the citizens of our great country, don’t sit on the sidelines. We strive for Freedom and Justice with courage even when our faces are marred by dust and sweat and blood. We honor our heritage of daring mighty things to win glorious triumphs even when we have failed.  

The men and women who died for us were certainly in the arena, certainly strived valiantly and certainly spent themselves in a worthy cause.

Roosevelt’s quote made me think of songs about people who dare mighty things.

One of my favorite songs, by Tim McGraw, is Live Like You Were Dying. Tim talks about taking courage in hand, rejecting fear.

After all, it takes courage to go skydiving, rocky mountain climbing, and 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu.

Loving deeper, speaking sweeter and giving forgiveness probably takes even more courage.

Tim sings about the same thing Teddy talks about – those who dare mighty things to win glorious triumphs.

On Memorial Day, we honor those who died while daring mighty things. Those men and women lived with courage and conviction.

My favorite song, one I belt out every time I drive the tractor, is Elvis’ version of My Way. Frank Sinatra made it popular first.

Elvis and Frank lived a life that’s full, traveled each and every highway and did it their way.

They could do it their way because our military veterans fought for freedom. No queen is going to tell us how to live.

Our freedom gives each one of us the ability to choose our religion and values. Nobody gets to tell us how to treat our neighbors or how to vote -- although, it doesn’t take long for me to get tired of the pontificators who try.

We get to vote in every election and shoot rifles. If I shoot a grizzly bear, I expect due process. We read and write what we want.

I heard another song the other day by Kris Kristofferson.

Kris said “I’d rather be sorry for something I did than for something I didn’t do”

Kris was talking about our future.

The men and women who stood for our country fought for our future. As they died, they might have been sorry, but they weren’t sorry because of something they didn’t do, weren’t sorry because they lived in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

On this Memorial Day, I hope you recognize the gifts our fallen heroes gave us when they fought for our freedom, and our future.

Act with courage to honor them.

Lisa Schmidt