Memorial Day is one of the those holidays that causes us to reach into our compassion wells and pull out our gratitude. It isn't always easy for us to put it all into words, though. We know how much the soldiers have sacrificed, but even if we know how we feel about it there are moments when others have already expressed those feelings more eloquently. So here are Memorial Day 2018 quotes to truly inspire you and, of course, to help you express your gratitude.
A lot of the following quotes are from politicians, probably because politicians are the ones who give speeches at pomp-filled Memorial Day events and, thus, their words of wisdom on the subject are recorded. Some quotes speak directly to the death of the soldiers and some are about patriotism in general. Memorial Day has evolved from a series of disjointed springtime celebrations in towns across the country, right after the Civil War, to a national Distinction Day declared in 1868. General John Logan, a Civil War veteran, called for a national day of remembrance, according to the History Channel. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” Logan proclaimed. In 1968, Congress passed a law declaring the last Monday in May to be officially "Memorial Day" and it has been a United States federal holiday since the law was enacted in 1971.
Whether you want to give a quick toast to the soldiers at your Memorial Day barbecue, or have been called upon to say a few words at a local event, here are some really great quotes to choose from that might help you get the sentiment just right.
"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived." - George S. Patton
As a tank fighter in WWI and a general in World War II, according to Biography, George Patton saw more than his share of battle deaths.
"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." - John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy spoke these words at his inaugural address and they remain one of his most famous and repeated quotes.
"The willingness of America's veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude." - Jeff Miller
Florida Congressman Jeff Miller shared his tribute to the U.S. armed forces and their great sacrifice.
"America is hope. It is compassion. It is excellence. It is valor." - Paul Tsongas
Paul Tsongas was a congressman from Massachusetts who ran against Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential primary. His words are inspiring and apply not only to Memorial Day, but to almost any patriotic occasion.
"Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility." - Eleanor Roosevelt
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is one of history's most inspiring women. After her husband's death in 1945, Roosevelt went on to become a noted public speaker, writer, and diplomat.
"These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor — and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror." - Michael N. Castle
Castle was the governor of Delaware for seven years and its congressional representative for 18 years and his tribute to our soldiers is well-expressed.
"Who sows virtue reaps honor." - Leonardo da Vinci
Da Vinci was a late 15th century and early 16th century, "painter, sculptor, architect, inventor, military engineer and draftsman — the epitome of a “Renaissance man,” according to Biography.
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." - Nathan Hale
Nathan Hale made his own "ultimate sacrifice" when he was arrested and executed by the British at 21 years old, after being caught as a spy, according to the History Channel. Hale's words lived on in legend long after his death.
"How important is it to celebrate our heroes and she-roes." - Maya Angelou
Barack Obama awarded Maya Angelou the Medal of Freedom in 2010. She didn't die in battle, but she certainly was a "she-roe" to many women. As Obama said as he gave her the award, "By holding on even amid cruelty and loss, and then expanding to a sense of compassion, an ability to love – by holding on to her humanity, she has inspired countless others who have known injustice and misfortune in their own lives."
"I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism." - Bob Riley
Bob Riley was the two term Governor of Alabama and is pictured above next to Vice President Joe Biden.
"Over all our happy country – over all our Nation spread, is a band of noble heroes– is our Army of the Dead." - Will Carleton
Breaking up all these political quotes is Will Carleton, a poet who lived and wrote in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself." - Joseph Campbell
More literary folks here, as this quote is from Joseph Campbell, Sarah Lawrence College professor and author of 1949's The Hero With A Thousand Faces.
"Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil, steady dedication of a lifetime." - Adlai Stevenson II
Adlai Stevenson II (not to be confused with his grandfather, Vice President Adlai Stevenson), was the governor of Illinois and frequent presidential candidate. His persistence in politics backs up his quote about the "steady dedication of a lifetime."
"Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men have died to win them." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Eleanor's husband makes an appearance on this list. FDR was president during most of World War II and could acutely feel the war losses at the time.
"For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue." - James A. Garfield
Another presidential quote, Garfield held the office for less than a year in 1881 before he was assassinated.
"Veterans are symbols of what makes our nation great, and we must never forget all they have done to ensure our freedom." - Rodney Frelinghuysen
This prominent House Republican from New Jersey is a Vietnam veteran, so he understands the true meaning of Memorial Day. After 12 terms, he plans to retire this year.
“Freedom is secured every day by our men and women in uniform. We must build a future worthy of their sacrifice.” - Nancy Pelosi
This congresswoman from California is a true trailblazer after serving as the first female speaker of the House of Representatives. She's currently the minority leader.