Monday we observe Memorial Day, the traditional beginning of the summer season and usually a reason for a spectacular barbecue. At the risk of harshing your pre-holiday buzz, I'd offer Memorial Day is why we can say and do many of the things we say and do in this country without fear or consequence.
Some of us have parents who can remember when Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and even farther back than that, it was an attempt to honor the war dead of the War Between the States, evolving into a remembrance of all of those men and women in uniform who sacrificed their lives to preserve our liberties.
Across the country on Monday and throughout Norwich there will be memorials and remembrances. We live close to Chelsea Parade and I regularly walk among the various markers at Memorial Park to Norwich's war dead from the conflicts that have shaped and shaken our nation. Soon, thanks in no small part to the Norwich Area Veterans Council, a reminder and remembrance of Jacob Martir and Keith Heidtman, our two too-soon gone Norwich residents who died in the Global War on Terror, will join the others.
But it's not their sacrifice I want you to contemplate as you double-check the count on the hot dogs and buns for the weekend cook-out but, rather, the price paid by so many in uniform for opportunities and privileges to which too many of us seem oblivious. Freedom has a price and each generation pays its share. Memorial Day is a thank you to those who foot that bill and most especially those who paid the ultimate price.
It's ceased to be about picnics, previews of summer or a shortened work week and has again become a day to honor those whom we have lost. Those who gave their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq are first and foremost in our thoughts and hearts but we cannot forget those who are the original greatest generation of World War II, the heroes of the Korean War, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who served so valiantly in the Vietnam and the First Gulf Wars. We remember those who died in Somalia, Grenada, Beirut and many other locations across the globe where we have put our sons and daughters in harm’s way.
But when we speak of honoring our heroes, we should ask ourselves what should we do in their memories? What is our responsibility to them? They gave their entire lives—we owe them more than a day. We live in a world of twelve-second sound bites on television where earth-shaping and history making events are chased and replaced by other breaking stories and memories fade.
We get confused but we shouldn't. Celebrities make headlines-heroes make a difference.
And the men and women we honor and remember are heroes. In the words of John F. Kennedy, himself a veteran of World War II, "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers." On Memorial Day we honor and remember not only the men but also the women who died believing freedom is the most precious gift we have. Our heroes forfeited their lives to prove that and their sacrifice requires us to live as engaged and energized citizens of the world who deserved their sacrifice, because we do.