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Memorial Day is time for remembrance

The people's business

POSTED: June 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Memorial Day is the time for Americans to reconnect with their history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives for the freedom and the ideals that we cherish.
More than a million American service members have died in the wars and conflicts this nation fought since the first colonial soldiers took up arms in 1775 to fight for independence. Each person who died during those conflicts was a loved one cherished by family, friends and the community. Their loss has made our nation's dedication to freedom stronger, as we continue to fight the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and on other foreign fronts. Our nation is stronger because of the sacrifice of these brave service members, and the cause of freedom is preserved for the next generation.
For decades, Memorial Day was a day in our nation when stores closed and communities gathered together for a day of parades and other celebrations with a patriotic theme. Memorial Day meant ceremonies at cemeteries around the country, speeches honoring those who gave their lives, the laying of wreaths, the playing of Taps. Sadly, many Americans have lost this connection with their history. All too many Americans today view military service as an abstraction, as images seen on cable news programs and in movies.  For a growing percentage of the American people, Memorial Day has come to mean simply a three-day weekend - a major shopping day or a day to catch up on yard work. Families might still gather for picnics, but for many of them, the patriotic core - the spirit of remembrance - is absent.
Memorial Day, like the military itself, is largely cut off from its historic meaning for many Americans. They have forgotten what the military stands for in our nation's history. Many Americans have no experience with or connection to the military. There are many reasons for this disconnect. We have fewer and fewer veterans to share their stories, and many of our older veterans - especially those from World War II and Korea - tend to be reticent. They often don't talk about their service.
What is it that inspires and enables ordinary citizens, like our service men and women who are fighting the war in Iraq or the veterans of the Vietnam struggle, to rise to the challenge of battle, to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in service to their country? What is it that motivates them to respond and contribute wherever and whenever called upon to do so?
The answer is values. The proud legacy of our military - and our country - is grounded in these core values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity and personal courage. These values made our military strong. Carried with us over the threshold of history into these times of global terrorism, these values will keep this nation strong - these values will prevail.
We in this country owe a great debt of gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives so that we could live free. We also owe a great deal to those who are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the families of all American veterans. We can start to pay that debt by not forgetting, by remembering what they did and what they stood for.

In the words by Charles M. Province:

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial;
And it is the soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves the flag, and
Whose coffin is draped by the flag  
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

 Please take a moment during this Memorial Day holiday to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the many freedoms we enjoy in some special way. As always, please contact me in my office on the issues that are affecting you and your area.

Senate Majority Leader Williams represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Toombs, Wayne and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties.  He can be reached at (404) 656-0089 or by email at tommie@tommiewilliams.com.


 

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