Opinion: Thoughts on Memorial Day’s meaning and freedom’s price

(For Memorial Day use) May 6, 2021 Canton - General scene at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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(For Memorial Day use) May 6, 2021 Canton - General scene at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

On Monday, May 31st, our nation will observe Memorial Day. This is a day to honor and remember America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who rendered the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. The history of Memorial Day dates back to 1868. Throughout American history, more than 1.3 million service members have given their lives in order to maintain the freedoms we enjoy. To put this number in perspective, that is approximately the total number of active duty Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine personnel serving today.

We continue to honor our service members who gave all of their tomorrows for our today. As we go about our daily activities, it is not uncommon for us to hear things about what is wrong in America. On Memorial Day, we honor those who gave their lives to preserve our right to make those observations. You may not know the names, the situations, or the numbers. However, you should know that the chances of America being what it is today without them is next to zero.

The core of the American experience is literally forming a more-perfect union while living free in peace and tranquility. We struggle to create those conditions among ourselves. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 7,000 military personnel have paid the ultimate price in service to this country. What we often forget is that men and women from all walks of life literally give their lives protecting the American experiment.

Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, Georgia Adjutant General.
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Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, Georgia Adjutant General.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

It is their sacrifice that has set the conditions for Americans to have a chance to live in freedom. These men and women are a big part of what is right about America. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid.

Every Memorial Day finds many of us struggling to find the right words to characterize our fallen and what they mean to our country. The reality is that those words do not exist. When words fail, action can help us at least partially fill the void that cuts so deep into our humanity. I pray that this Memorial Day will offer us all a chance to do our part to help heal the fabric of our society that often feels as if it is bent on tearing us all apart with hate and division. I pray that we will all be more deliberate in offering comfort to the grieving families of our fallen heroes.

Members of our military who died in service to this great nation left us with the gift of life along with the responsibility to carry the mantle of freedom into the future.

Memorial Day exists not as an abstract concept shaped by large numbers, but as an ever-present reminder of the high cost of freedom. The challenge for those of us left with the memories of our fallen is to never miss an opportunity to make our community and our country better. Let us honor the sacrifices of our fallen by making life count and by making freedom count!

Major Gen. Tom Carden is Georgia’s adjutant general.