Memorial Day 2021

From “Memorial Day Address (1884)” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in American Speeches, edited by Ted Widmer:

“Every year — in the full tide of spring — at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life — there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death….

“Year after year lovers wandering under the apple boughs and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier’s grave. Year after year the comrades of the dead follow, with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march — honor and grief from us who stand almost alone, and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away.

“But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death — of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and glory of the spring….

“As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”

From President Biden’s Memorial Day Address at Arlington National Cemetery:

“We are gathered at this sacred place, in this solemn hour, to engage in the most fundamental of undertakings: the rite of remembrance….

“We remember those who gave their all in the service of America, in the service of freedom, and in the service of justice. We remember their sacrifice, their valor, and their grace. We remember their smiles; their loves; their laughter; their essential vibrant and transcendent humanity.

“For while we stand amid monuments of stone, we must never forget that each of these markers, for those known and unknown, here at Arlington and far beyond represent a precious life: a son, a daughter, a mother, a spouse, a brother, a sister, a friend, a neighbor….

“Women and men, all those we honor today, gave their lives for their country, but they live forever in our hearts — forever proud, forever honorable, forever American.”