Remembering fallen heroes on Memorial Day

Since the years after the Civil War, Americans have looked for healing on one day each year dedicated to the memory of those who died fighting for this country. In fact, since 1775, nearly 1.4 million men and women have done so.

Back in 1868, it was the Grand Army of the Republic commemorating the sacrifices made by Union soldiers. It sparked a nationwide understanding of the importance of honoring those whose lives paid for our freedom.

Today that understanding seems to be fading.

Maybe it is because war has changed. During the six years of World War II, 405,399 died in service to their country (and while saving the world). Blessedly, the world has not seen anything like it since. During the 10 years of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a total of 6,817 were killed.

But the sacrifices of those men and women are not diminished. They, like those lost before them, died because they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us.

Maybe it is because we have changed. We have forgotten that we have the freedom to disagree with one another, to steer our country in the direction most of us see fit — and even to look forward to three-day weekends full of pool openings, parades, good food and the promise of summer stretching ahead — because of them.

We owe them, and their families, the respect to take just a bit of our today appreciating the gravity of what the end of their lives has meant for the richness of ours. On this Memorial Day, grant them at least that.

“The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men.”

• Minot J. Savage, American minister (1841-1918)

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

• President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)


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