It has become almost cliché to say that we all need to remember the real reason for Memorial Day. "Freedom ain't free," is what what we're told as millions of Americans travel to spend time with family and friends during this long holiday weekend.
Enjoying the holiday and finding time to relax is important. But anyone who dismisses the sacrifices of this nation's heroes does so at his or her own peril.
"Some things have not changed at all since 1776. For one thing, freedom is still expensive. It still costs money. It still costs blood,” said President Harry Truman in the 1950s. Freedom, Truman said, “still calls for courage and endurance, not only in soldiers, but in every man and woman who is free and who is determined to remain free."
While Memorial Day is meant to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we are also reminded by former AGC Houston Chief Staff Executive Pat Kiley that the construction industry has an obligation to honor those who came back from theaters of war.
“This day also prompts homage to those who returned, those heroes who then turned their talents and patriotism to making this country the great nation that it is,” Kiley wrote in 2014. He argued that the industry has a legacy of welcoming those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
"This fact is reflected best in the historical charts that show the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay. Following World War II, for at least two or three decades, this ratio was in the 20:1 range. This is exactly the range that was advocated by the late dean of management consulting, Peter Drucker, even as late as 2011," Kiley wrote.
But Kiley stressed that the industry must do a better job of maintaining a sustainable workforce:
“Craft worker pay has been very neglected in the past 30 years, especially since we have had unlimited access to the vulnerable immigrant worker. Only now, as a skilled worker shortage reaches a pervasive state, are we beginning to address this fact. Hopefully the wonderful work of the Construction Career Collaborative (C3), and the focused effort to achieve Comprehensive Immigration Reform will intensify and accelerate this focus on reclaiming our skilled workforce and reestablishing construction craft work as a viable and valuable career choice. We will honor the intention and the spirit of the Greatest Generation if we do."
For those who have served and returned, Construction Citizen will continue to highlight programs aimed at putting people to work in jobs with dignity. For those who gave all, we offer the words of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, who wrote in 1915:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.