Memorial Day is a sacred day for honoring those soldiers who have given their lives for our country. While not all may not have chosen to serve, all of them sacrificed for the values that their flag represents. And some of these brave heroes even chose to give their own lives to save their fellow soldiers.

Their courage and their loss are sobering to all and very humbling for so many of us who have neither served in the military, nor lost a loved one in that capacity. Yet we all benefit from their service and commitment to ideals that were greater than themselves. And all of us must honor their sacrifice.

Honoring our fallen soldiers is not about what we do on this one day of the year. It’s certainly not about the backyard barbecue parties we can finally have once again, nor about the bunting or flags we may display, or many of the other things we tend to do on this holiday. If we really honor their service, it should be something we do every single day. That certainly includes taking care of our veterans and current members of our military, but it also requires honoring those higher ideals that they were protecting.

We’re all familiar with how our independence as a country was driven by the beliefs expressed in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But what is often over looked is the last phrase of that document, that “…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” [emphasis added]

It’s not just your freedom or my freedom, it is our freedom. We can’t really say we honor the fallen when we’re attacking each other and the foundations of our democracy. Perhaps one of the ways we can honor those who have given their lives for our freedom is to come together and work for a more perfect union, starting with learning more about what that union was designed to be. To take a day off from re-posting memes and, perhaps in your downtime between burgers and ice cream, grab a few minutes to read about our history and those ideals.

I read the Declaration of Independence this morning with fresh eyes. And went on to read a few other interesting pieces in a book I have (The Constitution of the United States of America and Selected Writings of the Founding Fathers):

  • Rules by Which a Great Empire May be Reduced to a Small One (Benjamin Franklin)
  • Federal Experiments in History (James Monroe)
  • Impressions as to the New Constitution (Alexander Hamilton)

Each time I take time to read from the collection of works in that book, I find some answers, usually have more questions, am amazed at the foresight of our founders and, well, wonder what happened along the way. The challenge for me — and perhaps for you, too — is to translate that into action that honors our fallen. We can’t erase their sacrifice, but remembering what they were fighting for and taking up peaceful arms to continue the struggle may be a start in the day-to-day honoring they so richly deserve.