Monday, May 26, 2008

Memories For Memorial Day

Most people have known at least one service person that they can remember on Memorial Day. Passing the memory of those people on to others is what helps us honor their sacrifice.
Here is an excerpt from a Memorial Day speech by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., as he remembers those he served with in the Civil War.

"...I see them now, more than I can number, as once
I saw them on this earth, ...and when I speak of those who were my brothers, the same words describe yours.

I see a fair-haired lieutenant, and a captain sitting by the long mess-table in camp before the regiment left the State, and wondering how many of those who gathered in our tent could hope to see the end of what was then beginning. For neither of them was that destiny reserved.

I see another youthful lieutenant. The officers were at the head of their companies. The advance was beginning. We caught each other's eye and saluted. When next I looked, he was gone.

I see the brother of the last as he rode before us into the wood of Antietam, out of which came only dead and deadly wounded men. So, he rode to his death at the head of his cavalry in the Valley.

I see one--grandson of a hard rider of the Revolution -- for five days and nights in front of the enemy the only sleep that he would take was what he could snatch sitting erect in his uniform and resting his back against a hut. He fell at Gettysburg.

His brother, a surgeon, I saw kneeling in ministration to a wounded man just in rear of our line at Antietam, his horse's bridle round his arm--the next moment his ministrations were ended.

There is one who on this day is always present on my mind. He entered the army at nineteen, a second lieutenant. In the Wilderness, already at the head of his regiment, he fell, using the moment that was left him of life to give all of his little fortune to his soldiers. His few surviving companions will never forget the awful spectacle of his advance alone with his company in the streets of Fredericksburg. In less than sixty seconds he would become the focus of a hidden and annihilating fire from a semicircle of houses. His first platoon had vanished under it in an instant, ten men falling dead by his side. He was little more than a boy, and for us, who not only admired, but loved, his death seemed to end a portion of our life also.

I have spoken of some of the men who were to me among others very near and dear, not because their lives have become historic, but because their lives are the type of what every soldier has known and seen in his own company. ...The army of the dead sweep before us, "wearing their wounds like stars." It is not because the men I have mentioned were my friends that I have spoken of them, but because they are types. I speak of those whom I have seen. But you all have known such; you, too, remember!"


Michelle said...

Thanks for sharing his speech; very touching to read...and to remember.

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Cherdecor said...

We all tend to take Memorial Day waaay to lightly. I have been guilty of that myself. I am glad for your post. It keeps the reason for this day before us because we too soon forget.