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“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” ~John 15:13

Etched on simple white markers in Arlington National Cemetery are the names of the men and women who fought and died, who gave what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion,” to secure our American way of life. Each of those names represents a choice—a decision to live and die in service of others, a decision to sacrifice.

How can we understand and honor that sacrifice? What does it mean?

“When I went to the war,” Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “I thought that soldiers were old men. It was not long after, in winter quarters … that it came to me that the army was made up of very young men.”

While yet in the twilight of childhood, these men and women relinquished the privilege of old age. They surrendered all possibility of holding little hands through first steps, watching ballgames and dance recitals as mothers and fathers, and walking children and then grandchildren down the aisle. They gave up their futures for the security of ours. Our peace and our freedom were purchased at the highest price.

Today and every day, let’s live in the memory of that sacrifice. Let’s make peace our highest aspiration, understanding that peace comes only through strength. Let’s make sure that our legacy is one worth preserving. It’s the least we can do.

“A soldier has been buried on the battlefield,” Holmes said.

Let’s remember, in solemn gratitude, the fallen.

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