This week and next I step away from commenting in this column about the politics of our day and talk about the people who have ensured that people like you and I get the opportunity to enjoy our God given rights to live free and to express our opinions. God gave us our rights; the Constitution guarantees those rights by placing limits, not on the people, but on the government, but it is the veterans who back those guarantees.
This coming weekend we have the opportunity to honor two special groups within the larger group of veterans. We honor the war injured and the war dead. In the morning of Memorial Day, we are to have our flags fly at half staff to honor those who gave the “last full measure of devotion.” At noon we raise the flag to the top of the halyard and there Old Glory is to fly in honor of the veterans injured in battle until sunset when we take her down with reverence, fold her up, and store her until she is to be use again.
Many of us will attend parades to salute those brave souls, and some of us will participate in memorial services that will combine words of remembrance, prayers of thanks and songs of praise as we celebrate our cherished freedom.
It seems that we have to buy our freedom about every thirty years for the succeeding generations. We send our brave soldiers into harm’s way to battle those who desire to destroy our way of life, and the veterans of each generation buys the freedom for the next generation of Americans.
It’s a hefty price. Sacrifice for others is what they pay. They start out by putting their lives on hold while they join the ranks and start their training. They work hard, and they commit to the job. Their commitment is 100% - 100% of the time. They are ready to die for us. Their blood is more valuable than gold will ever be, and they are ready to spill it when ordered to do so. My dad would remind me that there were only two people willing to die for me: one on the Cross at Calvary and the other the American veteran. It doesn’t get any easier to understand why Memorial Day is so very important to celebrate.
At one time the holiday was known as Decoration Day, when folks would visit the cemeteries and decorate the graves of the fallen with flowers and flags. Many still do such things. After World War II the name of the holiday was changed to Memorial Day, and we can use that day to fritter away our time in personal pursuits, or we can take the time to express our appreciation for our freedom. It’s ironic that we have the freedom to choose to honor these heroes or not because those very heroes fought to protect our freedom to exercise the right to not honor their actions.
While we are enjoying our liberty in the peace and comfort of our homes and community, we need to remember that more than 1,050,000 soldiers have died in battle since Lexington and Concord to buy our liberty. We need to remember that millions of others’ lost eyesight, hearing, legs, arms, suffered burns, traumas, torture, confinement in prison camps and other maladies to ensure that our freedom remained intact.
This past week I was telling my students about the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo, and that the men who signed on for that bombing mission knew when they took off from the decks of the carrier they did not have enough fuel to return but would have to take their chances after bombing the targets in Tokyo. I told the students about the Battle of the Bulge and the bravery of those soldiers who showed the Nazi’s what bravery really was. I have shared with them stories about Iwo Jima and showed them footage of the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi. My students have brought into our classroom the names of their relatives who fought in World War II, and we have posted those names on the back wall of the class to serve as a reminder of the brave actions of their relatives but also the tie to the securing of freedom directly into Room 28 of Mariposa County High School.
We have discussed other wars and other battles, but this new generation of Americans is gaining an insight into what sacrifice really means and what the word hero truly means. It has nothing to do with movies, television or sports. Next week I will be remembering the sacrifices made on June 6, 1944 when the sea ran red with the blood of those freedom fighters.
This Monday let’s remember the sacrifice. This Monday let’s remember those who made the sacrifice. Let’s remember to say thank you to every veteran we know and meet. Let’s remember what they did and let us commit ourselves to never ever forget their valor.
Thank you Veterans.