Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to work in a Congressional District office. Of all the opportunities such work has afforded me, one of the most humbling has been to meet a family who’s son died in Afghanistan while serving in our military. I met the young man’s mother and father, as well as his young brother and sister. As I talked to this mother, I learned that her son died at the youthful age of 19. Only being in my mid-twenties, my heart connected to the thought of all the years I have enjoyed that he never will.
In my efforts to find words adequate to encapsulate that kind of sacrifice, the words of Lincoln continue to ring out. In consecrating the blood-soaked field of Gettysburg, he proclaimed, “[I]n a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.” Understanding that words paled compared to the deeds of the fallen soldiers, the President further stated that, “It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
In this statement, Lincoln revealed a promise implied in the American spirit since the first pilgrims and settlers came to these shores. This promise finds itself woven through the sacrifices of our revolutionary patriots to that young 19 year-old man: When freedom requires the sacrifice of one’s own future, those who remain will commit themselves to ensuring that liberty is handed off to the next generation. That young man is no longer present to ensure that his parent and siblings will always enjoy the freedom he died to protect. But his death is a voice that will forever call to you and I who remain. Therefore, we must be “dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Let us always heed the voices of sacrifice that stand guard over our history of liberty, and response with the same degree of devotion in upholding our promise to their sacrifice. May God Bless the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers and the families who daily carry that sacrifice. And may God Bless this great land of liberty and freedom.