Memorial essay: Stepping forth

Memorial essay: Stepping forth

It is recorded in the annals of the golden age of radio that on May 29, 1943, comedian Jack Benny signed off the air for the summer with words dead serious — words said to have stirred a nation quite deep in the throes of a world war.

They are worth repeating as we remember those who gave the last full measure in defense of liberty, freedom and the American way:

“Today Valley Forge and Bull Run and Gettysburg and Chateau Thierry come marching out of the past and we see them clearly again.

“Because marching at their side are the men of Bataan and Pearl Harbor and Corregidor and Wake. And the men who fell there are still a living part of it.  And their spirits have given new life to all men who have died since 1776.

“Some time will erase the pain of the memory of Bataan and Pearl Harbor as it once erased the pain of Verdun.  But tonight the gold stars are too bright and new, the wounds in our hearts too fresh and the pain too sharp to forget.

“And, thus, Memorial Day becomes more than a roll call of our honored dead and a roll call more of the living.  And the living must step forth to answer and they must say all these men from 1776 to 1943 — they died for me.

“So let me work and let me buy bonds and let me — with the helping hand of God– make the sacrifice that tells the soul of each one of these men ‘You did not die in vain.’”

The living have continued to step forth since that late May day in 1943, in words and in deeds, to honor the ultimate sacrifice paid by brave souls. They always have. They always will. Because the preservation of freedom and liberty not only endear such a response but demand it.

Of course, fly Old Glory high and free this Memorial Day weekend. Attend your local parade. Shake the hands of those who served, survived and returned. Thank them.

Then pause, long, and remember, deeply, those who served and died. Pray for them and their families.

And just as importantly, as Jack Benny urged 75 years ago, find ways to help with the deeds that speak volumes.

Step forth.

For, lest we forget, and as author R.J. Heller once reminded, “We are because they were.”

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).