Memorial Day in a time of war. Ceremony and stirring military tributes on the television and radio. And always, as if there is no other way to speak of the death of our soldiers, newscasters, politicians and high ranking officers announce to our softened American brains the phrase that titled this piece.
Now the Gettysburg Address (from which this phrase comes) is a tidy little bit of speech making. The phrase above nicely dodges the harsher personal realities of a loved one lying much too early beneath the sod. It is also dodging the reality of what it means. "Gave", "Full", and "Devotion" all play positivities as our eyes well up with tears to the sound of Taps played by a lone bugler standing faithful but barely seen in the mist that fell on the manicured fields of white headstones. You get the picture. It is a good thing, that picture. But it is the civic undertakers efforts to make a good restoration of the body for which there must be an accounting, even if it be a Nazi, or Islamic Insurgent, or Confederate or American soldier's body. All of them offered, unto death their devotion. It makes us feel good without us actually able to feel moral. It is as true for the immoral cause as it is for the moral, for the Assyrian and the Israelite.
The good we feel is the good of glory. In battle the highest desire of man (the submission to our wills) is expressed at the highest level on this earth (that of nations) with the price exacted and paid being the highest possible (death). For all the horrors, for all the loss, this devotion to mankind's greatest urge is always measured to we who stand and wait as a glory, which the mere mention of, can move us. It is not the sadness of a man dying, known to us or no, it is a man dying for the will of his people being maintained this side of the battle line that claimed him.