Why is the Ground Hallowed?

Danny Loe

Today is Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, a holiday that is believed to have originated in my hometown of Columbus, Mississippi, to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Civil War and decorate their graves at Friendship Cemetery.  It is the resting place of veterans of the American Revolution, War of 1812, the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Memorial Day is one of our uniquely American holidays, along with Veterans' Day and Thanksgiving.  While each has a different emphasis, they are all grounded in the central idea that we should be thankful to our Creator for our individual freedom and to those who were -- and currently are -- willing to sacrifice everything to maintain and protect that freedom.

Other countries memorialize their heroes in some way, but America is different.  In every war in which we have ever fought, our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen have served on the front lines to protect our liberty, make others free, or defend the helpless. Or, in the case of the Civil War, to maintain the ideals of independence and freedom -- the primary mission of both the Blue and the Gray in that most tragic of all our wars.

Regardless of the political motivations of those with the power to send our military in harm's way, our individual soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen have always gone to do their duty of helping the helpless and defend freedom.   We are the only nation in history who can make that claim.

The reason they have done it is simple: we are the only nation founded on the singular idea -- America's founding principle -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

That idea was formed not in Philadelphia in 1776, but in Europe a century before, when people of faith left their homes behind to flee religious persecution to find a land where they could worship in freedom.  This root of faith in the liberty provided by Christ is the true genesis of the founding idea of America, and is the seed of our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the impetus for the Shot Heard Round the World.  Moreover, it is the reason that even those who do not believe in Him can be free not to believe.  That particular liberty, the epitome of freedom of religion, has also been ferociously protected.

Therefore, on this most American holiday, we remember those who gave the last full measure in commitment to the idea that every individual person on earth has the undeniable right to be free.

The touchstones of this celebration and remembrance are seen in the pictures and visits to the graves of those who have fallen.  But the heartbeat of our memorial is their valor, and the fruit of their sacrifice: our recognition of the truth expressed in the phrase, "America, America, God shed His Grace on Thee."[i]

That is why those grounds are treated with reverence, why they are venerated and sacred - and hallowed.



[i] "America the Beautiful"   lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates, music by Samuel A. Ward, 1910.

Today is Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, a holiday that is believed to have originated in my hometown of Columbus, Mississippi, to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Civil War and decorate their graves at Friendship Cemetery.  It is the resting place of veterans of the American Revolution, War of 1812, the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Memorial Day is one of our uniquely American holidays, along with Veterans' Day and Thanksgiving.  While each has a different emphasis, they are all grounded in the central idea that we should be thankful to our Creator for our individual freedom and to those who were -- and currently are -- willing to sacrifice everything to maintain and protect that freedom.

Other countries memorialize their heroes in some way, but America is different.  In every war in which we have ever fought, our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen have served on the front lines to protect our liberty, make others free, or defend the helpless. Or, in the case of the Civil War, to maintain the ideals of independence and freedom -- the primary mission of both the Blue and the Gray in that most tragic of all our wars.

Regardless of the political motivations of those with the power to send our military in harm's way, our individual soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen have always gone to do their duty of helping the helpless and defend freedom.   We are the only nation in history who can make that claim.

The reason they have done it is simple: we are the only nation founded on the singular idea -- America's founding principle -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

That idea was formed not in Philadelphia in 1776, but in Europe a century before, when people of faith left their homes behind to flee religious persecution to find a land where they could worship in freedom.  This root of faith in the liberty provided by Christ is the true genesis of the founding idea of America, and is the seed of our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the impetus for the Shot Heard Round the World.  Moreover, it is the reason that even those who do not believe in Him can be free not to believe.  That particular liberty, the epitome of freedom of religion, has also been ferociously protected.

Therefore, on this most American holiday, we remember those who gave the last full measure in commitment to the idea that every individual person on earth has the undeniable right to be free.

The touchstones of this celebration and remembrance are seen in the pictures and visits to the graves of those who have fallen.  But the heartbeat of our memorial is their valor, and the fruit of their sacrifice: our recognition of the truth expressed in the phrase, "America, America, God shed His Grace on Thee."[i]

That is why those grounds are treated with reverence, why they are venerated and sacred - and hallowed.



[i] "America the Beautiful"   lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates, music by Samuel A. Ward, 1910.