These are unique times for the men and women of the U.S. military. Our service members are engaged in two wars, one of which – the conflict in Afghanistan – is now the longest in American history.
These wars have not been the bloodiest our country has fought, but nearly 5,500 soldiers have died since 2001 and they join the legions of Americans who have made the supreme sacrifice in the defense of this nation and its values.
Today the nation honors its war dead from both the recent and distant past. The story of Memorial Day dates back to the aftermath of the Civil War, and while there are varying versions of the day’s origins, the reunited nation’s need to pay homage to those on both sides of that terrible conflict makes the holiday a particularly potent symbol of national unity.
The men and women of the armed forces who have given their lives so that the rest of us can live in freedom and peace come from no single region of the country. They are of many races, national origins and religious affiliations. They span the nation’s economic and social classes.
In other words, they’re a testament to the remarkable breadth and depth of this nation and the shared sacrifices that have preserved and strengthened it through the years.
While all who have died should be on the minds and in the hearts of the nation today, it’s hard not to give special note to the most recent sacrifices in our contemporary conflicts. These are the most recently departed from their families, friends and communities, and 13 of them – named and pictured in Sunday’s Daily Journal – come from Northeast Mississippi. A total of 73 Mississippians have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fittingly, several Northeast Mississippi communities have recognized the sacrifices of their hometown heroes with memorials of various sorts.
Today there will be Memorial Day commemorations in several communities across the region. Tupelo’s annual event begins at 9 a.m. in Veterans Park.
These solemn occasions may counter to a degree what Memorial Day has become for most of us – a holiday weekend devoted to pleasurable pursuits. But it’s worth pondering the reality that without the sacrifices honored today, our freedom to do what we please on this day might very well not exist.
In the midst of today’s cookouts, picnics, parties or other pursuits, take a moment to remember what the day is about. Better still, make a commemorative event part of your day.
NEMS Daily Journal