"The Department of Veterans Affairs provides headstones and markers for the graves of veterans anywhere in the world and for eligible dependents of veterans buried in national, state veteran or federal cemeteries. Flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble and upright marble types are available to mark the grave of a veteran or dependent in the style consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial. Niche markers also are available to mark columbaria used for the inurnment of cremated remains.
"Headstones and markers are inscribed with the name of the deceased, the years of birth and death, and branch of service. Optional items that also may be inscribed at VA expense are: military grade, rank or rate; war service (such as "World War II"); months and days of birth and death; an emblem reflecting one's beliefs; valor awards received; and the Purple Heart. Additional items may be inscribed at private expense.
"When burial is in a national cemetery, military post or state veterans cemetery, the headstone or marker is ordered through the cemetery, which will place it on the grave. Information regarding style, inscription, shipping and placement can be obtained from the cemetery."
The above is from a military benefits pamphlet I located online.
Cut and dried. Pretty simple. This is what you get.
"Come on all you big strong men; your Uncle Sam needs your help again. He's gotten himself in a terrible jam ... "
That's from Country Joe and the Fish. Change the words, change the dates, change the venue and it could have been written last year -- or last week -- instead of the Vietnam era, shortly after the Tet Offensive.
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth."
Abraham Lincoln, dedicating the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. I'm not sure that speech could have been made last year, or last week. I don't think the majority of people in this country believe this to be a nation under God. They don't act like it. They certainly don't vote like it. The commander in chief doesn't conduct himself like one who believes that statement.
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields."
A poem, written during World War I, by a Canadian, Lt. Col. John McCrae. The final verse goes like this.
"Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."
Are we the people still willing to take up the torch for those who have given their last full measure on behalf of liberty and freedom? Are we willing to continue to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic? Ask yourself that question. Are we? Are we really?
"Uncommon valor was a common virtue."
Inscribed on the Marine Corps Memorial adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery. Our fathers and grandfathers left home and fought and died to preserve our way of life. Why? So we could sit back and watch while a group of anti-American politicians fundamentally change the fabric of our nation?
"Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife; who more than self his country loves and mercy more than life."
America the Beautiful. Enough said.No one knows the name of the first American to lay his life on the altar of liberty. The names of the most recent -- as of this writing -- are also unknown. But last week seven soldiers died in one day -- fighting for the same principles as those who fell at Lexington and Concord in April of 1775. Two hundred and thirty-eight years. That's a long time to keep fighting for duty and honor and liberty and freedom. But not as long as living 238 years without it.
"What difference does it make now?"
Hillary Clinton. Former secretary of state, commenting about the Americans who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi. What difference, indeed.
Happy Memorial Day. Please remember not to forget.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.