Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Memorial Day is the day that we remember the sacrifice and loss of American soldiers. It is (or should be) a thoughtful, sombre occasion, at least for a period of time. It is an opportunity to renew our own gratitude (if not momentarily) and impress upon our children that our many blessings are no accident at all. The cost of our liberty, freedoms and standard of living has been enormous. Vietnam: 58,000 casualties. Korea: 30,000 casualties. WWII almost 300,000 casualties. WWI: more than 50,000 casualties. The Civil War: around 600,000 casualties. And these numbers do not even consider those who were wounded, physically and emotionally, or the direct, stunning, crushing impact of war upon their friends and loved ones, their husbands and wives and mothers and fathers. To think we are somehow "better" than, or "more deserving" than any one of them is utterly preposterous. We are all more akin to being something like winners of a social - or historical - lottery.

My family has a remarkable record of military service and - thankfully - very little in the way of "ultimate" sacrifices. My uncle was in England when the Germans were dropping bombs right and left. My grandfather served in all of the major offenses of World War I (as a captain) and was a chief engineer on the Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge, during World War II (as a colonel). He died in retirement, with his loving family, in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. My great-grandfather (a graduate of West Point, the Army War College and the Navy War College) was a major general who spent time in the Philippines and along the Texas border previous to World War I. He died in the comfort of his home in Brookline, Massachusetts. Two family members also served in the Civil War "with distinction," both with the Illinois 7th infantry. One may have been injured at Shiloh. I also have a brother, and a brother-in-law, who have served in the Air Force and a nephew who has served in the Army.

I have never served a day in the military. The closest experience I have had to it is, perhaps, marching band practice during the dog days of summer in Florida! But I am proud of my family's record of service, and, yes, very thankful. I cannot help but be patriotic when I think about them. When I go to a baseball game and hear 40,000 fans sing the National Anthem, I get emotional, every time. It never fails. Why? I always have the overwhelming feeling that I am living in the greatest country on earth and that, when all is said and done, I have it better than 90 percent of the people on it! My problems are petty. The liberty and freedom I enjoy are spectacular. My potential is extraordinary and my blessings are beyond calculation.

God Bless America! May a peace that passes all understanding engulf the friends, families and loved ones of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. May that sacrifice never be forgotten by the rest of us, and always be fully appreciated.

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