Soldiers deserve remembrance, respect


As free living, free-thinking Americans, we owe our soldiers, present, future and past, a debt of gratitude I don’t think we can ever repay. Whether they defended our borders and the borders of our Allies during the first and second World Wars, whether they traveled to the wastelands of Korea or the jungles of Vietnam to stop the spread of communism, served in “peace-tim

e” in Beirut, Bosnia, Nicaragua, El Salvador or Germany, or whether they are part of two generations sent to the Middle East to defend the starving and helpless against a cruel tyrant, each soldier, sailor, pilot or Marine has added a thread to the fabric of our national heritage that can never be replaced.
Our military provides for the structure of our national consciousness. Our soldiers pick up weapons and stand posts so that we, the Average Joe Citizens, don’t have to unless we want to.
It is our soldiers who are solely responsible for our freedom. It is they who provide us protection when our borders are attacked. It is they who risk their lives to keep us safe.
I read in an email a few weeks ago that it is the soldier, not the speechwriter, who protects freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the journalist, who guarantees freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the demonstrator, who gives us the freedom to assemble, and the soldier, not the clergy, who grants us freedom to practice our chosen religion.
We must, as Americans, put our political stances, our personal opinions about war and our theories about national defense to one side and remember that. And we must remember it every day.
Every so often when I’m out with friends, I’ll run into a young man or woman, either in uniform, or who I overhear discussing either just returning from, or preparing to deploy to, the Middle East. Without exception, I thank them for their service. Often, this shocks them.
It shouldn’t.
Still, as often as I remember to thank those who are serving now, I forget to thank those who have served in the past… And though I’m ashamed to admit it, I usually forget to thank the families of those brave men and women who stood a post and never came home.
Once again, as we approach Memorial Day, I find myself wondering how many other people find themselves in a similar boat — how many people only think to remember the fallen once or twice a year, and who think to remember their loved ones even less often. I wonder how many people consider Memorial Day a paid holiday, the beginning of the summer season and a day of beer coolers and barbecue. Judging by the attendance I’ve witnessed at Memorial Day ceremonies over the years, I suspect it’s a prevalent train of thought among most of us. By and large, I see current, former and future soldiers, politicians and their families. I often see very few people without some obvious, vested interest.
It never fails to disappoint me, because the fact of the matter is we all have an incredibly clear-cut, incredibly vested interest. Memorial Day is not about paid days off and barbecues. It is about the men and women who fought and died to make sure we could have barbecues and paid days off.
I hope to find that we can all give that idea some thought, and take an hour away from our recreation on Monday to join together at 11 a.m on the Courthouse Lawn to honor Caldwell County’s soldiers, sailors, pilots and Marines — those who came home, and especially, those who didn’t.


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