Harvey C. Mayhill, 32

The heroic dead teach that we, too, must daily pay the price of freedom.

There is an ageless price of freedom we all know, the graves of those who have given their lives for our liberty. On Memorial Day every year, we pay honor to their supreme sacrifice. Their survivors, orphans, friends and fellow veterans, however, remember them not just one day every year, but every day of their lives.

We, too, owe a frequent, not occasional, debt to the heroic dead. They paid for our freedom, and we must repay them daily. Only when average Americans like you and me live our lives to the fullest in promoting freedom can we truly be worthy of the heritage bequeathed to us by America’s fighting men and women. How do we do this?

Involvement is the answer-involvement in our churches, our communities, our public schools, our professions, our Masonic organizations, and in all the other groups that build our nation, assist the needy, and create better neighborhoods where children can grow up in safety learning the precepts of freedom and their part in preserving these ideals for their children.

The fallen have their memorials. They are to be revered, but they commemorate past service. Our service is today, and our monuments are our daily lives. We pay the price of freedom each day by moral conduct in our community and nation. Many think community activities take too much time. Yes, coaching a Little League team consumes many precious hours, as does attending a high school band concert, civic parade, or local church service. But it is not too much time; it is hardly time enough considering the enrichment these activities give to us, our neighbors, coworkers, local schools and, most of all, our families that form the backbone and strength of our society. Memorial Day’s message must be carried to all who feel they do not have the time to share in their communities. And the best way to carry that message is through our own actions.

There may come a time when we have to make a choice between freedom and the result of not preserving it. If many more people adopt the self-centered attitude that it takes too much time to volunteer for and participate in the many fine organizations, including Freemasonry, that hold our society together, soon even those now carrying their fair share will say “Enough is enough!” and quit. Only in joining in each other’s welfare and rejoicing in each other’s prosperity, will anyone be able to enjoy freedom the way it should be, shared.

I am sure each of us can find a personal and meaningful way to participate if only we care enough and search deep enough. We cannot lower standards just because others ignore them. Rather, we must raise our own standards and then have the will to live up to them. As we respect and defend a loved one or friend, so we must defend freedom, not necessarily by fighting on a battlefield, but by living unselfishly in the service of high ideals and right actions. As the following poem underlines, we all have the opportunity-and the obligation-to pay the ageless price of freedom.

Your task is to build a better world said God, and I questioned, “How? This world is such a vast place and, oh, so complicated now. And I am so small and useless, there is nothing I can do.”

But God, in all His wisdom, said, “You just build a better you.”

The above article is a shortened form of a 1996 Memorial Day address given by the author at Memory Garden in Brea, California. Nearly 600 persons attended the ceremony which is sponsored each year by the VFW and American Legion. About 30 Masons and their families participated, along with others, in decorating graves and dedicating 45 casket flags of fallen military personnel.