May 25, 2020

In the midst of COVID-19 and the devastation it has wrought on our state’s economy, Memorial Day somehow seems more poignant than ever this year.

We’ve watched as the coronavirus spawned actions to mitigate health care risks, and the Governor’s shutdown brought a devastating blow to North Carolina’s economy with businesses closing – some forever.

There have been plenty of conversations about the role of government and the limitations our Constitution places on it.  Like when do we allow government to shut down businesses and take away a family’s source of income – their opportunity to make a living – their “pursuit of happiness.” The job loss in just two months has led to skyrocketing unemployment and bailouts nationwide. The debate arises over government’s role in protecting our freedoms versus the role of keeping us safe. Fair questions for all of us to ask and consider.

On a holiday that honors the military personnel who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces, it is appropriate to recognize that we enjoy our freedoms – to engage in open debate, to have a free press, to worship freely, and other rights we discuss in our daily lives – because of those who have fought and died to protect our country for 244 years.

Whenever we get wrapped up in political and policy debate, it is a privilege and a right to do so paid for by the men and women who sacrificed their lives on battlefields across the globe under the flag of the United States of America.

Looking through a family scrapbook recently I read letters detailing the death of a great uncle, Second Lieutenant Charles W. McDevett, who died at the end of World War II in Germany. I read the letter from the Commanding General to his wife saying McDevett had been killed in action. I couldn’t imagine anyone reading those chilling words. 

I then read another letter that was even more gripping. It was from one of Lt. McDevett’s officers to his wife, explaining what actually happened. Just weeks before the Allies swept into Berlin and the German surrender, on April 9, 1945, the armored column McDevett was fighting with experienced gunfire from the woods around them. They returned fire and at some point, four Germans came out and surrendered, and announced there was a large group of German soldiers hidden in the woods who also wanted to surrender. McDevett went into the woods with three other men to get them but walked into a trap. He was shot dead in an ambush – only a few short weeks before the final surrender.

That’s not a movie. It’s real sacrifice. A North Carolina son who served in our Armed Forces to protect our freedoms.

Please take time today to be thankful for those who died for our freedoms, and remind a family member or friend, or maybe best, tell a young person what Memorial Day is about. Freedom is not free. The best way to honor those who died for us is to not forget.