the freedom to enjoy the simpler things…

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.
George Washington

They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast,
And their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(buckeye butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

Today while we enjoy the marking of a season’s change,
May we remain ever mindful of the many lives that offered the ultimate sacrifice
in order that the rest of us have the freedom to enjoy the simpler things in life…

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

what do we learn

Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.
Mahatma Gandhi

“That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended –
civilizations are built up –
excellent institutions devised;
but each time something goes wrong.
Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and the cruel people to the top
and it all slides back into misery and ruin.”

C.S. Lewis

“It is not often that nations learn from the past,
even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.”

Henry Kissinger

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( WWI German soldiers, in gas masks, ready to throw a potato masher grenade at the French troops in the opposite trenches)

It is said that if left unchecked, the past is but doomed to repeat itself.

Learning from one’s mistakes is always the best teacher,
always providing the best sorts of lessons to be learned…that is,
as long as one actually learns.

It seems that human beings are simply hell bent on pushing that proverbial envelope.
Yet we are smart enough to push just far enough without plunging ourselves over the cliff into the great abyss of no return.

Our global relationships are fickle at best.
Allies, turned foes, turned allies, turned foes…
as the never ending merry go round runs around and around.
It just seems to be a part of our nature as trust and distrust dance a dangerous waltz.

Ever since that fateful day when brother killed brother,
the children of Adam have never been able to wash the blood of the innocents off of their hands.

Over this past weekend, we Americans marked Memorial Day.
A day set aside to honor our Military Personnel.
It was a day created following the Civil War, the bloodiest war fought on American soil—
the war that pitted brother against brother.

It was a day in which we told ourselves we would never forget the lives lost during the fighting and during the battles. A day set aside yearly to remind us of the sacrifices made as well as of those gallant ideals and principles that divided a Nation—
And we told ourselves that no matter the reasons nor the victors…it was to be a day we would pay tribute to the lives lost, on both sides…a day in which we would pay our respects…

As our time as a Nation has continued, we have continually found ourselves entangled in countless other clashes, conflicts and wars.
Each time as the dust settles and the bombs cease, this Nation is called upon to remember…

Yet with all our celebrations, our cookouts, our ballgames
and our quiet solemn observations over this past long weekend,
we probably failed to notice that there was another tribute taking place…

This “other” day of remembrance was held in Verdun, France.
A poignant ceremony was held to mark a long ago and now mostly forgotten battle.
A battle that is simply kept deep within the books of global conflicts.

It was known as The Battle of Verdun.

The tale of this battle is as black and monstrous as they come.
It was a battle that pitted modern day allies against one another, fighting until the very death.

The Battle of Verdun, fought throughout the entire year of 1916, is known as the longest battle waged. Deadly, frustrating, endless trench warfare.
It is a battle with some of the most staggering numbers of casutalites and fatalities for any single battle.
700,000 soldiers from both France and Germany were either killed, wounded or never found as the fighting wore on for eleven long months–
The battlefield covered not even 6 square miles of land.

As the fighting wore on, it no longer remained a strategically feasible fight but became a battle of nationalistic pride. Who could outlast the other…

During the course of fighting, 9 surrounding villages were destroyed as a nation’s landscape was forever altered. It is said that the villages died for France.
Historians note that the battle was eventually wrested from Germany,
giving France the bittersweet victory.

Two years later, in 1918, Germany was finally defeated, offically ending WWI…
Yet silently a stage was now set as a foreboding darkness sat ominously upon a not too distant horizon…as lessons would quickly be forgotten…

This past weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined France’s president, Francois Hollande, marking the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Verdun.
These once sworn enemies, on more than one occasion, came together on May 29, 2016 in solidarity, now as allies and friends, in order to remember what once was a very dark time in both their shared history.

Days such as Memorial Day, VE Day, VJ day, Decoration Day, Armistice Day, the 4th of July…specific days set aside yearly, or even those spontaneous moments, results of humanity’s gratitude…
serve to teach us…
they remind us of our past struggles and sacrifices as well as of our past differences…differences in ideologies and goals.
They teach us that the freedom to live and to do, a freedom we often take for granted, more often than not comes at a tremendous cost…a cost, that as a generation passes, is likely to be quickly forgotten.
These days serve to teach the surviving generations that working hard as well as together—that the deadly mistakes of the past do not always have to be repeated, as long as we are willing to learn….

French President Francois Hollande, left, holds an umbrella as he walks beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German cemetery in Consenvoye, northeastern France, Sunday May 29, 2016, during a remembrance ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel are marking 100 years since the 10-month Battle of Verdun, which killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands. (Jean Christophe Verhaegen/Pool Photo via AP)

French President Francois Hollande, left, holds an umbrella as he walks beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German cemetery in Consenvoye, northeastern France, Sunday May 29, 2016, during a remembrance ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel are marking 100 years since the 10-month Battle of Verdun, which killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands. (Jean Christophe Verhaegen/Pool Photo via AP)

Please click on the link in order to see more regarding the past weekend’s ceremony.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36407564

remembrances

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time,
and your government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain

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(the flag I fly at home / Julie Cook / 2015)

Today Americans will pause in order to celebrate Memorial Day.

A day many assume was put on the calendar in order to mark the unofficial start of summer.

It’s a day for day’s off…
for family gatherings,
for picnics,
for cookouts,
for ballgames…
and basic idyllic enjoyment.

However it would behoove us, on this unofficial day of all things festive,
to recall the original intent of Memorial Day…

Originally it was not a day set aside to commemorate the opening of the seasonal door to summer…
rather it was a day set aside for Americans to remember the thousands of lives lost,
as well as the thousands of bodies forever broken, during America’s darkest days of the Civil War.

It was originally referred to as Decoration Day.

Over the years, Memorial Day has taken on a life of its own.
It has become a day of celebration, an excuse for a party, a shift in the seasons, …

Yet as we celebrate, we must also remember…

We remember the countless numbers of men and woman who have served
and continue to serve in our armed forces.

We remember the lives taken.
The sacrifices made.
The limbs lost.
The souls shattered
The minds altered.
The hearts broken
And the children who have grown up and continue growing up never
knowing the parent who was called to offer the ultimate gift
to their fellow man.

So as you work in the yard,
fire up that grill,
play in the surf,
build that sand castle,
watch that ball game,
sip that lemonade,
eat that hot dog,
and just enjoy a special moment to be lazy…
Offer up a thank you…
to those men and woman who have given, and continue giving, their all…
allowing you to say “hello summertime”

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

Luke 9:24

Decoration Day

“Millions of tongues record thee, and anew
“Their children’s lips shall echo them, and say –
“‘Here, where the sword united nations drew,
Our countrymen were warring on that day!’
And this is much, and all which will not pass away.”

Lord George Gordon Byron

And now the old lion with her lion cubs at her side stands alone against the hunters who are armed with deadly weapons and impelled by desperate and destructive rage…..
The stars in their courses proclaim the deliverance of mankind. Not so easily shall the onward progress of the peoples be barred. Not so easily will the lights of freedom die.

Sir Winston Churchill

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(commemorative medal, Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee / Julie Cook / 2014)

Decoration Day
Memorial Day
VE Day
Armistice Day
Remembrance Day
Veterans Day

Be it May 8, 1945,
May Bank Day,
November 11th of any given year,
the last Sunday in May,
or even
the 4th day of July. . .

Be it commemorating the lives lost during the War Between the States–which was the impetus for Decoration Day, now more commonly known as Memorial Day—
to those lives lost during any military conflict. . .

Be it here in the United States or throughout Great Britain, our most constant ally,
these days for the somber remembrance and reflection on the cost and price for the freedom we enjoy to this day must never be allowed to wane or be forgotten.

Sadly these days are slowly being allowed to morph into other things. . . VE Day (Victory in Europe, the official end of WWII in Europe) has become an official bank holiday.
Decoration Day, which was originally a day to mark and decorate the graves of those lost during the Civil war, was renamed to Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is now synonymous with the official start to summer, trips to the beach, furniture sales, department store sales, car sales and the ubiquitous cookout. . .

The same can be sadly said for Veterans Day, Armistice Day (the day celebrated in Europe marking the end of WWI, which coincides with our Veterans Day) and even our 4th of July.
Days originally meant to pay tribute to the lives lost during military conflict as well as a day to acknowledge and pay tribute to the continued contributions made for our safety and freedom by our armed forces.

The quote today by Lord Byron was written in 1815 commemorating the allies victory at the battle of Waterloo. Churchill, addressing the House of Commons in 1942, when after a myriad of defeats and woe-some lost battles could finally speak of small victories. Ever hopeful that the tide would finally be turning for his isolated and bombarded Island nation, Churchill found Byron’s poem most fitting.

This came following what Churchill dubbed the victory of the Battle of Egypt –El Alamein. It should be noted that the late M. Venizelos, a prominent contemporary Greek leader, had once observed that “in all her wars England / Great Britain — always wins one battle — the last.”
I am certain that this observation was a keen thought in the back of Churchill’s mind–would his beloved Island nation come through once again.

The reasons for Memorial Day, Veterans Day, VE Day or any other day of remembrance is just that–for remembrance–For the remembrance of the myriad of lives, mostly young lives, lost fighting and defending the simple principle of freedom for both you and I. These are days to honor lives lost as well as for the lives which still stand ready to ensure that our lives remain forever and constantly free and safe.

Treasure hidden among the weeds

“With the exercise of a little care, the nettle could be made useful; it is neglected and it becomes hurtful. It is exterminated. How many men resemble the nettle!” He added with a pause: “Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

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(a painted lady butterfly finding nourishment among the weeds / Julie Cook / 2014)

On this glorious Sunday, as you perhaps spend a warm sunny May day worshiping, enjoying family and friends, marking milestones of graduations and weddings or simply spending an afternoon serenely pondering and recalling the importance of why we mark this weekend as our Memorial Day celebration, I wish that you may happily find yourself stumbling upon any and all tiny treasures hidden among the weeds.

May you take time to notice the minute. May you relish and marvel in what is around you. May you offer thanksgiving for the peace, beauty, family, friends–for the time spent freely and lazily and for bright futures ahead and for whatever those futures may bring.

May we all be mindful that there are really no such things as weeds nor bad men, but that we, humankind, may not always be doing the very best job possible at cultivating all that is around us. . .as we don’t often take the time.
Today may we all make a conscious decision to begin cultivating, with love and care, all that is around us—for the reaped reward will certainly be great.

Sow righteousness for yourselves,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
and showers his righteousness on you.

Hosea 10:12

to appreciate “The Few”

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“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Sir Winston Spencer Churchill
(Taken from his speech to The House of Commons, August 20, 1940)

For any who love listening to, what those with the magic ability can do, turning the English Language into a symphony of words and sounds, there are none quite like Sir Winston Churchill. His writings continue to capture and stir imagination as his speeches still invoke the deep primal instincts that rally the weary to rise up when all appears lost, when there is nothing left to offer—his speeches are akin to Henry V’s battle cry at Agincourt or Elizabeth I’s rallying of her troops as the Spanish Armada bore down on her Island Nation.

No less was this speech, now dubbed “The Few”, a rallying point for the British people as they, alone, had bore the brunt of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg. Years before the Allies joined arms, the British people suffered night after night, onslaught upon onslaught of their Island Nation. The British people knew that it was they who stood between democracy or tyranny for an entire world. A small Island in defense of a giant monster. But hold they did—and thank God they did, for all of us who today enjoy a democratic freedom.

I am reminded of such sacrifice and heroism on such occasions as this Memorial Day Weekend–as we prepare to use this time as the official “kick off” to summer, we must all take pause and remember that it is not for Summer that we called for a Memorial Day remembrance but rather a call to offer our prayers and appreciation to those who have gone before us, who continue to go, and defend our freedoms. The freedom to travel this weekend to lakes, woods and beaches. To bask in the joy of a “3 day” weekend–to gather with friends and family simply to venture outside and feel the freedom from work, worry, and grueling schedules.

This is not the time to protest war, of which none of us want. It is rather a time to offer our thanks to the countless men and woman who, down through time, have gone to serve and defend the rights of the whole–as they are the “few”. As we crank up the grill, take the boat to the lake, sleep late on Monday, may we remember that this is simply not some granted “free time” off but there is a deeper reason for this weekend. Our “few” still are out there serving our Nation–despite our political thoughts, this is a time of appreciation and recollection–and a time to offer our thanks for the very lives many have given so that you and I may be “free”………