Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day Essay

Many people see Memorial Day as just another holiday, a day where they don’t have to go to work. They think of trips to the beach or firing up the grill. If you ask many, they would tell you it is the beginning of summer vacation season.

Memorial Day is a day we pause as a country and people to pay homage to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It should be a somber occasion, one where we honor the many Americans who died in countless places around the world performing the duty their country called them to.

Starting with the patriots fighting for liberation from Britain to our modern day soldiers fighting terrorists, the end result of war is death for many. The battlefield is a hostile place where young men and women venture because of a sense of duty and honor. On the battlefield they can count on each other during and after the fight. You see soldiers all come home, the living and the dead. As Col. Hal Moore told his troops before going to Vietnam (and to the battle of Ia Drang Valley chronicled in “We Were Soldiers Once ….And Young”) “I can't promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God, that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together.”

When you see the dead come home in flag draped coffins, what you might miss is the care and honor the color guard shows as they lift each coffin off the transport. It is the same honor presidents who have died are afforded. The military family understands each person who was killed in combat was a hero, and their coming home is as important as the ones who lived.

So when you are at the beach enjoying the sand and waves, remember those who never made it off Omaha beach. When you are flying to your vacation destination, remember those who never made it to their destinations, shot down over Guadalcanal, Ploesti, Hanoi and Bagdad. When you are hiking up the mountains and hills, remember those who never made if off the hills and mountains with names like Hamburger Hill, Little Round Top and Mt Suribachi. And when you go sailing, please pause and remember those who never made it back to shore, those who sailed on ships with names like Jeauneau, Yorktown and Hornet. And when you drive to your vacation destination, remember those who never reach their destinations in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Yes, by all means enjoy your day off. Have a good time but please remember the reason we call it Memorial Day. Those names carved into the Vietnam Wall may not mean anything to you or I, but each one was a son or daughter, a father or mother. Each one died defending a way of life we take for granted. Freedom isn’t truly free. Even with the Christian faith, someone had to die to make us free. His name was Jesus and he spoke the following words “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”

When you look at the tombstones or names on a memorial, remember those were your friends. They willingly died so we could have the rights and privileges we enjoy today as Americans. Honor them as such.

Jeffrey Henning
Veteran - US Army


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