[Since I have had so many requests to repost this piece, I offer it for your consideration. It originally appeared on Memorial Day, 2011 – Ed.]
Perhaps it is merely age, or the wisdom that comes with it, but Memorial Day has come to mean more to me every year. It may also have something to do with the people I have met in my life who have served in the U. S. military – World War II vets like my dad, the young men just back from Afghanistan or Iraq, the Korean War vet who now does my taxes, or the Navy Seals, both young and old, that I have encountered along the way.
And, because it was my era, I cannot help but have a special place in my heart for the Viet Nam vets I have come to know and appreciate, today more than ever. Now in their 60s, they were the 18 year old “grunts” who went to war. There were the thousands who were drafted into the Army. And more than a few others who enlisted in the various branches of the service, like the Navy pilots who braved Soviet made surface to air missiles – and wound up as prisoners, to be beaten, tortured, and even killed.
Then there were those who joined the Marines, including the “crazy brave” who volunteered for Recon duty – the “tip of the spear” in the truest sense. They were not only the “first to fight” – they were often the first to die. Their ranks experienced some of the most vicious close quarters fighting of the war, and, not surprisingly, some of the highest casualty rates as well.
But no matter what their job, or how they got there, all of these warriors had one thing in common – they put their lives on the line for the people of the country they loved. They did not go to war for Democrats or Republicans, for liberals or conservatives – they risked everything for each and every one of us.
So on this, yet another Memorial Day weekend, let all of us simply vow to live our lives in such a way as to be worthy of the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price to protect our freedoms – the fallen.
To do any less would be to dishonor their memory.