It’s Memorial Day, and for most of us that means a day off from work – maybe the end of a long weekend trip – and not much else.
For the families of those who’ve died in the two most recent American wars now winding down, Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s something else. It should be to the rest of us as well.
Memorial Day honors all U.S. service personnel who have died in America’s wars since the Revolutionary War nearly 250 years ago, but the most recent sacrifices represent the freshest wounds among surviving family members. Many of them are here in Northeast Mississippi.
As we have said in this space before: All the men from this area who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan were sons or brothers or husbands or all of those. All had family and friends who loved them dearly. They were unique individuals, not statistics.
While we were going about our daily lives back home, with only an arm’s-length knowledge of their mission, they had made the choice to put their lives on the line so that the normalcy we take for granted could be maintained.
Courage and selflessness are words that come to mind, but they are not an adequate description.
The number of servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is small compared with most earlier U.S. wars. But their own and their families’ sacrifices are identically emblazoned in the pantheon of war dead. We must never take them for granted, nor any of those who have died in all the wars before, the lives this day is intended to honor.
Memorial Day shouldn’t be just an excuse for a day off and a cookout. Those who have died defending this nation’s people, interests and ideals over the two and a half centuries deserve more than that from those for whom they died.
We can’t bring them back – the ones who would still be alive today. We can’t make up for the deep loss that their families feel.
But we can remember and honor them. That goes not just for this day, but all year round.
NEMS Daily Journal