The Gratitude Mindset: Memorial Day 2024

Monday, May 27 is Memorial Day, a day to honor the nation’s fallen. It’s a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s nice to enjoy the long weekend, and it might be fun to do some shopping, but to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln’s words, it’s important for us to remember the costly sacrifice which has been laid on the altar of freedom.

Observing a day of remembrance in the United States of America has roots in the tributes which were held in the spring of 1865 following the Civil War. It’s said that formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina, organized the earliest commemorations as war graves were decorated with flowers.

As a colonel retired from the Marine Corps Reserves in 2022, Memorial Day brings to my mind the many faces of friends who died in training accidents, in airplane crashes and in war. First among these is George Angel Acosta, my best friend and roommate in my early years as a Marine Corps pilot.

I think about George often. What’s most strange to me is that when he was killed, he was twenty-eight years old and I was twenty-five. Today, he’s still twenty-eight, but I’m fifty-seven.

Remembering those who sacrificed for the freedom we enjoy is critical if we desire to continue to enjoy that freedom. One of my favorite quotes is by Thomas Paine in 1776, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

In his first inaugural address as governor of California, President Ronald Reagan put it like this, “Freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people.  And those in world history who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.”

For me, remembering the sacrifice of so many for the freedom we enjoy today places an appropriate burden on the way I live my life tomorrow and beyond. In today’s culture, there’s not much said about gratitude. There’s not much said about the responsibility we have to those who have gone before us and made the ultimate sacrifice, and there’s not much said about the responsibility we have to our children and our children’s children. Mostly, people talk about what they’re owed and what they’re not getting.

Like the formerly enslaved people of Charleston, South Carolina, remembering those who died for our freedom is a solemn opportunity to reflect, to take stock, and to think about how we want to live our lives. In this regard, I think the Bible puts it best in the Book of Luke, chapter 12, verse 48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Finally, there are a lot of words flying around today. Unless they create meaningful change, in my mind, many of them are wasted. I would hate for that to be the case here. So, let me offer this. If we each make one small commitment to give a little more, then some won’t have to give everything. Little changes lived out across a large population can create an avalanche. In our freedom we have a responsibility to live freely. To that end, the words of the prophet Micah ring in my ears, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

God bless and semper fi.

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Colonel Richard Mendelow (Ret)

Colonel Richard Mendelow (Ret) is the host of "Courageous Christianity with Richard Mendelow," a radio show on 100.7 FM in Houston, Texas, livestreamed at, and podcasted on any podcast app. When he's not flying Boeing 777s for a major airline, He leads the Courageous Christianity Ministry which equips Christian warriors for the spiritual battlefield; helping men stand firm at the intersection of their faith and the secular world.