Most of us have someone for whom we would give our life. It may be our spouse, our children, a friend, or in an emergency, even a stranger. We rely on faith to provide an afterlife, and as such, the afterlife is out of our hands. But we can control how we live our life, even if we have not been given a full life to live. Many of us live our lives in the pursuit of something greater than ourselves, and of course, some people never figure that out. For those who are successful in living their lives for something that is greater than themselves, society generally provides for a way to honor them when death does occur.

Memorial Day is celebrated by many as a time to remember and celebrate those who did pass on before us, especially those that attempted to live their lives beyond themselves. But more formally, it is a time to celebrate the lives – and deaths – of those who died in battle ( Battle is one of those things that is greater than ourselves, for a battle is a considerable statement in the progression or defense of an idea or a principle. It is also the most acute attempt to promulgate or defend that principle. By the time the battle occurs, the debates, the lawmaking, the lawbreaking, and rhetoric are halted, and a more drastic resolution is sought.  Not all battles or wars are righteous; some are unnecessary extensions or executions of mad or greedy men. But where more than riches or irrationality is involved, it is on the battlefield where the most important of mankind’s accomplishments and institutions have been established or protected.

The principles that underscore our American experience took centuries to root, grow, and bloom. And millions have died promulgating and defending them. As such, they are quite precious. And they are indeed still in bloom, and they are indeed still under attack, even after many battles and many lives lost. So we continue to protect them so that future generations will enjoy their benefits. Men and women from all over this country voluntarily agree to defend those principles with their lives. They’ve already made the decision to live their lives – and give their lives if need be – for a greater purpose.