As I was thinkin about the importance of Memorial Day I was jarred by the entrance of the phrase “the last full measure of devotion” into my mind. I couldn’t remember where it came from. As I did a simple search on google I was taken to President Abraham Lincoln’s address after the Battle of Gettysburg. In that short speech the President spoke to the sobering reality of war and its devistating effects. What was impressed upon my mind as I read the address was not the cost of conflict. This will always be a reason for arguments against war. No, what spoke to me was the fact that President Lincoln was calling upon those who remained to consider the reason for which so many had expended their lives.
You can read the full address here:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 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. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — 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.
November 19, 1863 [Source: Bliss Copy]
We who live in the wake of the sacrifice of others must devote ourselves to finishing the work that was started and protected by soldiers. It has been and will always be the responsibility of the soldier to foot the bill for the protection of our society. I hope and pray we never forget to honor those who have given “the last full measure of devotion” so that we would not have to ourselves.