We commemorate Memorial Day this weekend—the day that has been designated to remember the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives defending our freedom and the safety of our nation.

Major General John A. Logan, in 1868, was the first to recognize that a day to honor those who had served this country should not be thought of as a holiday, but as a day to remember. He called for the first formal observance of Decoration Day, ordering that his posts should decorate graves “with the choicest flowers of springtime” and directing his troops to “guard their graves with sacred vigilance…. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

What a phrase: “the choicest flowers of springtime.” It seems quite possible to me that he meant those words two ways. First, they are surely chosen to indicate the care and attention we would take in our activities on Memorial Day. But second, they are almost certainly a description of those being honored. We recognize the high cost of defending our freedoms. Those who give their lives in service to their country are themselves “the choicest flowers of springtime.”

While it is difficult to find words adequate to express our feelings and appreciation for those patriots who have given their lives for the freedom of our nation, the old general found them for us.  Back in 1868, General Logan wanted to make sure that everyone remembered the sacrifice, remembered the courage, remembered what it cost, and his standard still stands.

It is impossible to truly understand the depth of these sacrifices—the real cost of lives cut short, of dreams left unfulfilled and destinies unachieved. This Memorial Day weekend we pay grateful tribute to all of our veterans for what they have done to safeguard our country and our freedoms.