It’s High Time We Paused and Remembered the Fallen Among Us

A reminder of what Memorial Day means from an anonymous veteran

While you are reading this column some soldier, sailor, airman or marine, probably thousand of miles from where you are sitting, probably sweating and probably lacking access to the creature comforts we as Americans enjoy, will perform a heroic act. Consider these Americans sought to serve our military willingly, without any compulsion or coercion. At this minute, these heroes of ours are delivering relief in the form of fresh water, mosquito nets and blankets to the devastated and needy in Myanmar. They are ensuring safe passage for oil-laden ships in the Straits of Hormuz, despite menacing Iranians. They are engaging with villagers in the vast and desolate Horn of Africa eradicating the pestilence of terrorist camps and, furthermore, making sure they never take root.

People, and too often the news media, often reach for the term “hero,” when “model citizen,” “great role model” or a “Wow, well done” will do. I imagine that even if our personal definitions of this superlative may not have an exact match, you’ll probably agree that a bold, altruistic and determined act at a minimum qualifies. At the risk of being too selective, I’ll add willful, admirable and inspiring to the qualifiers.

As a veteran, and one who has lost friends in the service of their country, this weekend especially. I’ll honor and cherish their service and sacrifice, but also reflect on the tragedy of their unfulfilled dreams. I’ll wish for extra grace and strength to fall on the families of the fallen as the hue of faded, yet painful memories temporarily brighten. I’ll recall how their service allowed us to continue fulfilling our aspirations and our blessed American way of life under the banners of the freedoms they’ve defended and we enjoy. To just name a few, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. You no doubt will enjoy some and, if not, all of those freedoms this weekend.

Have you seen the forecasted warnings of holiday-goers clogging airports and highways? It sounds even more hectic than the Tasmanian devil-like pace we Americans usually inflict on ourselves day in and day out. And so it is harder, I imagine, expecting us to take the time to memorialize our fallen and appreciate the gifts they’ve given us. Gifts we use over and over again everyday.

During discussions about the war in Iraq, a friend of mine sometimes challenges clients of his to name just one of the more than four thousand men and women who lost their lives during Operation Iraqi Freedom — meanwhile he gets a nearly 100 percent correct response from the same people to name the guy in California who murdered his pregnant wife (Scott Peterson). Or name one of the more than five hundred Americans lost in Afghanistan. Is it rude to expect this of someone? Is it shameful not to know this answer? Is it too much to ask for you to make such inquiries? It’s not for me to say, because you, as an American, have the freedom not to care to know about such things. I could never take that way from you. I do know that it is more than simple trivia and an inspiring reward awaits you. A reward attained by possibly learning that those who gave the ultimate sacrifice were citizens just like you, members of your family, your friends and co-workers. Or by finding in a veteran’s obituary about how they were a football star or in the band in high school, someone who shared your major in college, someone who has youngsters or one on the way. You may even feel some kinship with our fallen and understand the piercing loss their families will now endure forever. And that fallen serviceman or woman, certainly means a heck of alot more to you than the latest tabloid murder suspect featured in People magazine.

Can’t make it to a ceremony or parade? Since you’re on the internet, consider learning something more about our fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. The resources are plentiful, and I listed a few below. Appreciate, admire and honor their lives and then tell a friend. I trust you’ll appreciate so much you’ve been given in your blessed life after doing so. I’ll even bet if you’re possibly harboring recent resentment about the cost of gas, food, movie tickets and maybe even paying for a child’s birthday party, these complaints may even be muted for at least a while.

Our freedoms are not free; a price has been and will continue to be paid for them.

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