We must never forget America’s fallen heroes

Published 9:10 am Monday, May 30, 2016

Our View
Memorial Day in America has traditionally been a time when we pay our respects to those who gave their lives, over a century ago, in a tragic civil war. In a broader sense, it has come to stand not only for the sacrifice of those who served in the War Between the States, but for all of those who have served and died for our nation and its freedom.
We try to remember those who died in wartime. We mark the historic days and the anniversaries. We fly the flag, we hold parades, we visit the cemeteries, we report on the observances through TV and print.
But, for those who were not there, whose lives are young, the wars are ancient history. The Revolutionary War, the War Between the States, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, even the first Gulf War today are often just mere words in history books, emotionally incomprehensible to a new generation after the recent Middle East conflicts have fallen off the front pages and 24-hour cable news cycle.
But, today we must remember. We must remember the 2,200 soldiers who died in the War of 1812. We must remember the 215,000 Americans — Union and Confederate forces — who died on the battlefields of the Civil War, giving rise to this holiday once called Decoration Day, a day to decorate the graves of those who died in wartime and now celebrated on the last Monday of May as Memorial Day.
We must remember the 53,500 Americans killed in World War I.
The 292,000 killed in World War II.
The 33,667 in Korea.
The 47,393 in Vietnam.
The 148 in the first Gulf War.
The 4,486 in the Iraq War.
And the 2,322 killed as part of the continuing Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
In every one of these wars and conflicts, Carter County has sent men to the battlefield as well as some women. Many of our own never returned. Their names are listed on the Carter County War Memorial downtown.
We hope today’s school children will never know battle, but we want them to know about the brave men and women who died on the battlefield, and those who fought. We want them to know the sacrifices they made. We want them to know there is more to war than the Vietnam Wall, the World War II Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. We want them to know about the white crosses in VA cemeteries and the names that the crosses represent. We want them to know the people those crosses represent, the men and women whose names are etched on our local and national memorials.
Every name engraved on the Vietnam Wall, every named etched in marble at the Carter County War Memorial, and every white cross in a VA cemetery represents someone’s family member or friend. They were men and women who enjoyed many of the same things we do. They enjoyed spring days with sunshine, baseball games, Sunday dinner with family, days at the lake, attending church on Sunday, making a garden, etc. They dreamed of jobs and careers, of having their own family and home. Instead, they answered the call of their country and died in battle.
We must never forget these brave men and women who gave their all for this country and freedom. For their sacrifice, we owe them at least that much.
We must never forget that every name represents a person. And, for each of those names, thousands of tears have been shed.

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