The Planted Row: Remembering the ultimate sacrifice

Stan Wise
Farm Forum Editor

We inherit the world from the actions of our predecessors. Everything that we enjoy, we owe them for either building or preserving.

Some of them lived long, fruitful lives, working and building families. Others, however, were forced to make what impact they could in a much shorter time frame.

Some of those gave everything they had to the ideas and causes they believed in.

On Monday, we will celebrate Memorial Day, a holiday that we have set aside to remember the people who gave their lives while serving in the military.

If the weather is nice, many of us will spend the day at the lake or by the grill. Others, like our nation’s farmers and ranchers, will probably spend it working.

Both of those options are appropriate because they honor what our nation’s soldiers have died to give us — the freedom to pursue our lives as we see fit. Yet, whether we spend the day at the lake, by the grill, in the field or behind the till, we should keep in mind the ultimate sacrifices others have made so we can enjoy our lives.

The history of Memorial Day in the U.S. has its roots in the Civil War. In that conflict we warred with ourselves, and as a result more Americans died in that war than in any other conflict we have faced. Our ancestors battled for the soul of this country. They fought to make sure that all Americans are free, not just those born to a few privileged demographics.

As a person born into the world created by their efforts, it’s hard to even fathom the concept of facing a cause so important that it’s worth the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. Yet our ancestors faced it, and when asked, they laid their lives “upon the altar of freedom,” as President Abraham Lincoln wrote in his famous letter to Mrs. Bixby of Boston.

They died, and a better nation arose from their ashes.

It would not be the last time American soldiers were asked to give their lives to create a better world. They have fought and died in two world wars and various other wars and conflicts in the century and a half since the Civil War ended.

Sometimes the causes they fought for were a bit more morally ambiguous than others. Yet, for better or worse, they had sworn to serve their nation, and their nation sent them into battles that claimed their lives, battles that — one way or another — shaped the world we know.

We’re reaping the benefits of their sacrifices. According to researchers at the University of Oxford, the world is safer and more democratic than it has ever been, and life expectancies are steadily climbing.

How do you thank people who sacrificed their lives trying to make the world better for others?

You can’t.

But you can honor them. You can remember them.

As you spend your holiday in whatever manner seems best to you, I hope you’ll do just that.