Boalsburg, Pa., a small village in the central part of the state has a sign declaring: Boalsburg, an American village, birthplace of Memorial Day.”
In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson issued a resolution officially naming Waterloo, N.Y., as the “birthplace of Memorial Day.” Regardless of where it started it is appropriate that we pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The following cold statistics can’t possibly convey the sacrifices of some of our nation’s finest, much less the agony of their families and loved ones. Consider:
Revolutionary War: 25,324
Civil War: 498,332
Spanish American War: 1,862
World War I: 116,710
World War II: 407,316
Korean War: 54,546
Vietnam War: 58,098
Persian Gulf War: 146
Iraqi War 4,486
War in Afghanistan 1,800
Look at just one of those wars in a bit more detail. The World War II campaign in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany from D-Day through V-E Day cost the Western allied Armies 766,294 casualties. Included in that number were some 200,000 dead. Approximately 60 percent were Americans. Of the 5,412,219 troops landed, the casualty rate was 14.2 percent or roughly 1 in 7. There were also 50,000 Allied civilians killed.
A pseudonym for these brave souls is “Patriot.” In this era when patriotism is downplayed, a better understanding of what it is must be rejuvenated. Some have apparently confused it with nationalism.
Patriotism involves loving one’s native land: its history, traditions, language, natural features, admirable institutions, freedom, the individual’s right to achieve, moral attributes, virtues, and spiritual values. In general, its ethos.
Nationalists recognize and pursue the good of their land alone without regard for the rights of other nations.
Patriotism involves proper pride. There are two types of pride. One is arrogance, egotism. In any form that is wrong.
The other form of pride involves being ashamed to be less than our best in all things.
As Americans that is a good form of pride collectively and personally. On this Memorial Day, lest we forget, that form of pride led legions of patriots to purchase and preserve of freedom at so great of price.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.