May 30, 2011, - 11:19 pm
Since it’s one of the most important American holidays (at least to me), I’m embarrassed to put up my Memorial Day post so late in the day, but it couldn’t be helped as I’ve been on the phone all day with emergency techs trying to eradicate a virus on my desktop computer, which kept me from going online. I finally gave up and write this from a cafe (on the world’s slowest laptop). But I believe we should remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country, every single day–not just on one day a year.
U.S. Army Sgt. Chris Moore @ the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Photo by H. Darr Beiser/USA Today)
Natl Guard Staff Sgt. Duane Dreasky is Buried in Arlington Natl. Cemetery
And I couldn’t let this day end without sharing with you a fantastic USA Today column by my friend, Major James Key, Chaplain for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. James grew up in South Central L.A., was Arlington National Cemetery Chaplain, and also served as a soldier in the Iraq war. I joke with him that we are related somehow, since my last name means Key in Yiddish (the German-Hebrew hybrid). He is a fantastic writer and orator, and he is spot on here:
When I was much younger, Memorial Day to me meant a day off from school, a cookout in the park and the start of the summer vacation season.
Today, maturity and my military service have made me realize that the real heroes of our nation don’t earn million-dollar salaries, drive expensive cars or wear fancy clothes. They wear military uniforms, earn meager salaries and serve with little notoriety.The recent successful military operation by the Navy SEALs in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden is a reflection of the commitment and dedication that our servicemen and women have demonstrated since the birth of our nation.
And while every brave member of this elite military unit made it home safe and sound, others have not. During the past 10 years, more than 6,000 troops have become casualties of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Today, there are permanent empty chairs at the dinner tables of many families across America, which should remind us all that the price of freedom is still very high.
Every time I preside over a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, I’m reminded of this harsh reality. The history of America is replete with stories of young people leaving home to join the military and fight in wars. And while the families of these troops are very proud, no doubt somewhere deep in their soul they must wonder whether their loved ones will make it home safe.
Army Major James Key
As you celebrate this holiday, remember that these service men and women are everyday people who have dared to answer the clarion call to serve. They come from hard-working families and hail from big cities, small country towns and humble suburban neighborhoods. They represent different ethnicities, religions and creeds. They are the less than 1% of the population who serve in the U.S. military.
This Monday, let us not allow the commercialization of this holiday to upstage the significance of Memorial Day, which began in 1868 when members of the Grand Army of the Republic heeded the request of their commander, Gen. John A. Logan, to decorate the graves of their fallen compatriots. It has since become the day on which the U.S. honors the dead of all its wars.
So throughout this weekend, and especially on Monday, remember the empty chairs. These brave souls have given their lives so we can continue to enjoy the liberty that our forefathers envisioned for us all.
As Memorial Day enters its final moments, Major Key’s advice is good to remember every single day. It’s trite but true: they died so we could be free. Thank you to all of the men who gave their lives so we could continue on with our own lives in freedom, and all of those who survived but gave their limbs or were severely wounded, or endured unspeakable horrors, so we could go about our business in freedom. And thanks to those who served and came back in one piece. Let’s remember all of them 365 days of the year. G-d bless them all.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Graves of Some of Our Fallen Heroes at Arlington National Cemetery
Graves of American Soldiers Who Gave Their Lives in WWII @ Normandy
Tags: American soldiers, Arlington National Cemetery, Chaplain, fallen heroes, James Key, Major James Key, Memorial Day, U.S. Armed Forces, ultimate sacrifice