By JAMIE ALLARD
It is our most solemn day of the year: Memorial Day, a time to remember those who died while in active military service to our nation.
This Monday is for the fallen warriors. It is for laying a wreath, playing “Taps,” and asking God to protect our nation. Flags come down to half staff. Tears are wiped away. Tombstones are brushed off and flowers are carefully placed.
For veterans, it’s an especially meaningful day. This day is not for us, for we served and lived. It is the day for our comrades who served and died. Some of the fallen were known to us as friends or fellow riflemen, some were parents or siblings blown apart in the prime of their lives. In our home, we honor the fallen as though they are our brothers and sisters.
The most poetically expressive words about the profound losses felt in war were written by Canadian physician John McCrea in World War I. I share it with you, as we keep covenant with our buried or missing American warriors:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
During this weekend, our family is also reminded of the Ranger Creed, which every Ranger has memorized. While not as poetic as McCrea’s words, the Ranger Creed is something we can live by, even for those of us not part of our nation’s fighting force. It tells us how to be our best:
Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.
Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite Soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other Soldier.
Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred-percent and then some.
Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained Soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.
Rangers lead the way!
Finally, as you observe this Memorial Day, it’s always awkward to say “Happy Memorial Day.” It does not seem to fit. And yet those men and women who “Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved,” would actually wish that for every one of us Americans. They wanted the best for their fellow countrymen, and they understood that America is truly exceptional and worth fighting and dying for.
It is our happiness, freedom, and human rights that they fought for, and therefore, we owe it to them to not only recognize their sacrifice, but to not squander that incredible gift they left us.
Jamie Allard is the Anchorage Assemblywoman representing Chugiak / Eagle River.