Our solemn tribute on the Memorial Day

This editorial is from the Kalamazoo Gazette’s archives. It first ran on May 30, 1942.

Once again the people of the United States bow their heads in solemn tribute to the memory of those who have offered their lives in the defense of American freedom.

The custom is one which has been observed, year after year on the 30th of May, for as long a time as most of us can remember.

In some years, perhaps, its observance for the most part has been rather perfunctory; many of us probably will admit that we have often celebrated Memorial Day just about as we would celebrate any other holiday, without devoting a great deal of thought to its deep and sacred significance.

But it is a safe assumption that the real meaning of Memorial Day will make a truly profound impression on us this year.

For Americans are again offering their lives in defense of their country’s freedom, just as Americans have whenever their country has called them in the past.

They are offering themselves, this time, on a wide variety of battle fronts, scattered far over the whole vast theater of this “total war.” Many of them already have made the supreme sacrifice; many more of their fellow Americans are standing ready to do the same if the need arises. For it is something more than a call to duty which has brought American’s defenders into the armed services of their country in this and other conflicts.

It is a firm, sincere conviction that what they have been called to defend has been eminently worth defending at any cost.

And the progress of America from the earliest days of the republic has proved all this beyond the shadow of a doubt. To be sure, many people who were not soldiers or sailors have had much to do with that progress. Statesmen, educators, scientists, artists, farmers, business men and workers in all fields of useful human endeavor have played their part in building the great and free and mighty nation we know today.

Yet the labors of all these people could not have produced anything like the results they have unless the principles and ideals of our free America had been consistently upheld and defended. Whenever those principles and ideals have been threatened, the whole future of America has been threatened also.

To our soldiers and sailors throughout our national history we owe a full debt of gratitude for the preservation of this country against the menacing forms of disunity and aggression which might have made the labors of all other Americans utterly futile.

It is a debt which we cannot expect to repay in full, and a debt which is still mounting. We can, however, make a serious and determined effort to be worthy in every way of those who have offered their all for our country’s safety and freedom.

We can gladly make whatever sacrifices are required of us, knowing full well that most of them by comparison should hardly be called sacrifices at all. We can do everything in our power to perform efficiently whatever wartime duties may be assigned to us, in hope of thus hastening victory’s arrival and reducing the likelihood of needless sacrifices by those in the field.

And as we give what thought we can to the future, we may well dedicate ourselves to the task of making sure that the better world for which we all are hoping will be built and maintained when victory in the present conflict has been achieved.