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Memorial Day 2012 – A Tribute to the Fallen

Memorial Day is America’s traditional remembrance holiday for the courage and sacrifice of those who died in service to this great nation.  For our country’s living Veterans this yearly occasion brings back memories of their duty and the missions they accomplished, with the gratefulness of their safe return home.  It’s also a solemn reminder of their fallen brothers and sisters in arms, who valiantly laid down their lives as they served alongside them.

For many Americans Memorial Day is pause for bittersweet recollections of those who willingly gave up their lives to a cause greater than themselves.  It marks a beloved family member or friend’s courageous service in a long line of freedom defenders throughout our country’s history.   It’s a time to reflect, or perhaps plant a flag at the resting place of these warriors in honor their memory.  It should also be a reminder for us to never take these fallen heroes’ sacrifices for granted.

Our society tends to mark Memorial Day as the end of the school year and the beginning of warm weather picnics, barbeques, and summer activities.   It’s a gathering time with family and friends to enjoy some of these pastimes, but let’s not forget the occasion it presents to teach our younger generation the sacred meaning behind this holiday.   It’s also an excellent opportunity to take part in community events, such as parades and memorials that honor this special day of remembrance.

In World War II over 16 million men and women volunteered to put on the uniform of this country.  It was a significant percentage of the US population serving in the armed forces during that era, however less than one percent serves in the military today.  More than 7,000 troops lost their lives in the month long battle at Iwo Jima alone, and nearly twice as many as those that died in the 8 year long Iraq war.   “Most of our country’s citizens do appreciate the service of our nation’s armed forces”, retired ADM Mike Mullen told the graduating class at West Point last year.  He added: “I fear they do not know us. I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry, or the price we pay when or if we return from battle.”

Our country’s military history abounds with famous personalities who boldly gave up high profile careers to humbly serve, and who died on the battlefield: from New York Giants football player (and Medal of Honor Recipient), Andrew Lummus in World War II to Arizona Cardinal’s Pat Tillman, in Afghanistan.  Millions of ordinary civilians have also answered the call to duty, knowing full well that their service in combat would dwell daily on the edge of life or death.  Yet their examples of noble committment would forever be a part of storied family legacies that fosters a tradition of continuing service passed down to future generations of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.

Today I witnessed a retired Army Colonel son in solemn salute at the grave of his US Marine Corporal father, who fought alongside with his unit that ultimately raised the famous flag on Iwo Jima.  Hundreds of thousands of scenes like this are being repeated today, and it’s the tradition that our nation’s freedom stands firm and strong upon.  It is the priceless heritage of selfless service to this beloved country that is passed down from parent to child.  This Memorial Day, celebrate with a moment of remembrance for those who laid down all their tomorrows so you can have all your todays.

“Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored.” — Daniel Webster

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