Living a life worthy of their sacrifice

Since the 1860s, Americans have gathered lovingly to honor our fallen heroes. What we do each Memorial Day is solemn, reverent, and necessary. Even the epic pandemic could not stop us from honoring those who have given us "the last full measure of devotion" (President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863).

President Harry Truman reminded us of the precious gift of freedom we enjoy because of those who have laid down their lives: "Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices." We are truly the land of the free because of the brave.

One such fallen hero we cherish is Major General George Casey. He was raised in North Allston and educated at Boston Latin School, Harvard College, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He earned the Silver Star in the Korean War, commanding the Seventh Infantry Division company in engagements, including the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge. As commanding general of the First Cavalry Division, he died in Vietnam in 1970. He was killed in a helicopter crash on his way to visit wounded troops. His son, General George Casey Jr., served as the 36th chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

In 2019, I was honored to attend the dedication of the Major General George Casey Amphitheater in Allston. Brian Golden is a native of Allston and a dear friend who serves in the Army Reserve as a lawyer with the rank of colonel. He was instrumental in imagining the amphitheater and in bringing the dream to fulfillment.

At the dedication ceremony, Colonel Golden spoke eloquently about Major General Casey and the impact his life and sacrifice should have on the way we live our lives: ''Major General Casey lived the truth that there can be no greater love than to lay down one's life for friends. The amphitheater will be a place of joy and General Casey will be right in the middle of it. The memorial essentially asks you this question: Are you living a life today that is worthy of his sacrifice? And maybe that prompts us to be more selfless, maybe more committed to doing good during our brief time on this earth. And when we think of the hundreds of thousands who've laid down their lives or suffered tremendously for us, it becomes more humbling, more compelling -- hopefully, we can all do something good with that reminder."

Memorial Day is not only a time of great remembrance, it also serves to remind us of the precious gift of freedom in our country and how we should be exemplary citizens of our nation and citizens of heaven. President Ronald Reagan captured the meaning of our remembrance when he said: ''And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men (and women), surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice. Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: the United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we -- in a less final, less heroic way -- be willing to give of ourselves."

Let us strive to live lives worthy of their sacrifice. May the souls of our fallen heroes rest in peace. On Memorial Day and every day, may our thoughts, words, and actions honor their last full measure of devotion.