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Memorial Day: Honoring the price paid for our freedoms

Someone much wiser than an Ole Seagull said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Since our country’s earliest days, America’s Armed Forces and their families have paid the price for the freedoms we all enjoy. Freedoms that, increasingly, many abuse and take for granted. Memorial Day is a time to pay tribute to the men and women who have lost their lives while serving in the U.S. military. It is a solemn occasion to recognize their bravery, sacrifice and dedication in protecting the nation’s freedoms and values.

Originally called “Decoration Day,” Memorial Day honored those who died in the Civil War. Today, it honors the members of America’s Armed Forces who have lost their lives in service to our country.

The very act of joining the Armed Forces is a testament to one’s commitment and courage. Upon being ‘sworn in,’ Armed Forces members entrust their lives to their military and governmental leaders. This commitment is absolute and, from the standpoint of honor, irrevocable.

They could exercise that control in various ways. In “combat,” it could be through an order “to take that hill,” in the face of withering machine gun or mortar fire, to patrol a neighborhood in Baghdad, or assault a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan. A non-combat support position could be an order to serve in a supply depot, training facility, or hospital thousands of miles away from the battle. Regardless of where or how one serves, the risk to their life is an inherent part of the oath they swore.

History records it’s the politicians and those in power who start wars and that it is the men and women of their Armed Forces and their families who pay the price of those wars. It is a price paid in separation, stress, blood, suffering, anguish, physical and mental injury, and sometimes death.

Theirs is not to judge whether the politicians and powerful are risking their lives for a noble or just cause. Theirs is to selflessly do their sworn duty. Some have served in “popular” conflicts, such as World Wars I and II, Desert Storm, and Afghanistan. Others in disputes that were not as “popular,” such as Korea and Vietnam. However, through it all, the men and women of America’s Armed Forces and their families have done their duty, sacrificed and given unstintingly of themselves. 

William James eloquently reminded us, “No matter what a man’s frailties otherwise may be, if he be willing to risk death, in the service he has chosen, that fact consecrates him forever.” From our country’s beginning, the members of its Armed Forces and their families have assumed that risk and done their duty. They have ensured that a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

For the immense sacrifices made by those who have served and are currently serving in our Armed Forces, we owe them our undying gratitude, honor, respect and support, not just on Memorial Day but every day that we, as a nation, enjoy the fruits of the ultimate price they have paid.

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