With Memorial Day upon us once again to mark the “official” start of summer, I began to contemplate what the historical significance of this day is and what it means to be an “American”.

Bear with me here as I give my one sentence history lesson, but as I get older I have found myself studying our past a bit more as a key to our future.  Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and served as a day of remembrance for those who died in our nation’s service.  Meaning, they sacrificed their lives so we could be free.  Let that sink in for just a moment.

Sacrifice is defined as “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher value”.  By this definition, our forefathers gave their lives for that which was deemed “more valuable”.

I could give a laundry list of what they died for, but I’m limited by time and space.  So let’s stick with just a few:  freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of choice and the protection of family and our way of life.  Yes, one could argue here that people of other countries sacrifice for these as well.

However, no other country has this unique mix of sacrifice and selflessness that has defined an entire nation.  If you have never read Colin Powell’s Tribute to the American G.I., you owe it to yourself to read.   It is the embodiment of the American spirit of courage and dedication.

As I thought about being an “American” this week and talked with others, one image continued to come to mind.  It occurred on September 11, 2001.  It was that of Mike Kehoe as he raced up the stairs of the World Trade Center.  All hell had broken loose, everyone is trying to get out and here is one guy trying to get in.  Though he wasn’t alone, his picture perfectly captured what we, as Americans, are all about.  When everyone turns to run away, we turn and run toward.

So as you kick back this weekend to relax, to head to the lake, to worship, to check out facebook, to sleep in, to do whatever it is you may do; remember, someone sacrificed his or her life so you could do exactly what it is you are doing.  Don’t forget it.  We owe them.

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