Today we offer a heartfelt show of thanks to our nation’s veterans:
Words fall short when attempting to describe the unknowable, unpayable debt owed to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. As we gather our families in fellowship and enjoy our barbecues this Memorial Day weekend, thousands of our country’s sons and daughters serve in far less hospitable locations around the world. Hundreds of thousands more have already given their lives in service of our nation, and the number continues to grow. Three or four times a week, the Defense Department releases the names of the latest casualties in our ongoing conflicts, solemn announcements of another heroic life laid down to protect ours.
While we celebrated the lovely weather this past week, watched some TV, perhaps visited the beach, 37-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Clifford E. Beattie and 19-year-old Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr. were attacked and killed in Baghdad. In Afghanistan the toll was even higher. In Kunar province, a rugged, wild mountainous area that must have seemed very far from home, a bomb claimed the lives Monday of 33-year-old Staff Sgt. Kristofferson B. Lorenzo and three privates in their early 20s, William S. Blevins, Andrew M. Krippner and Thomas C. Allers.
Earlier this month, 21-year-old Cheizray Pressley of North Charleston was also killed in Afghanistan, in recognition of which flags in South Carolina will be flown at half-staff on Monday.
The traveling replica of the Vietnam War Memorial that came to town this week and the World War II memorial that local veterans visited Wednesday in Washington, D.C., are one way we have chosen as a nation to show our collective respect and gratitude for these warriors. But let’s not stop there. Shake a veteran’s hand this weekend. Visit the grave of a soldier. Offer thanks. Say a prayer for someone overseas or for those families who celebrate this holiday weekend with one less this year. Stand and acknowledge the blood and sweat shed by so many. Take to heart the words of Gen. John Logan, who penned General Order No. 11 in 1868, declaring May 30 a day for remembering fallen comrades:
“We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, ‘of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.’ What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
“If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.”