Memorial day weekend means extra time with the family. It is the christening of a new summer, along with some well-deserved time off work. It means going to the ballpark, the barbecue, or the beach. School children will soon be celebrating three months of freedom.
Freedom. Yes, that’s what Memorial Day is all about. This is the day we celebrate the lives of those who have gone to war to assure that we can enjoy the ballgames and barbecues. This is the day we honor the young men and women who have endured the ultimate sacrifice in battle. These are the young people who had their entire lives ahead of them, only to have all their dreams and possibilities ended in one cruel second. For the girls not kissed, for the marriages that never happened, for the children not born, for the careers never realized, for the grandparents that never were, we pay homage to these brave young people.
Some say that war has never solved anything. I don’t buy that argument. Except for slavery, Fascism, Nazism and terrorism, I suppose that war hasn’t solved anything. War is truly unfortunate, but there are bad guys out there. They have been out there since the beginning of time and sometimes they need to be confronted. Sometimes freedom-loving people are threatened and damaged to the point that they must confront violence with violence. It happened at Pearl Harbor. It happened again on September 11, 2001. The cost of war in terms of human lives and national treasure is always unbearable and unthinkable, but the alternative of being ruled by madmen can never be acceptable to those who cherish liberty.
I know several young men and women who have already served one deployment in Iraq. These are incredible people. Well-spoken, caring, loving, and enthusiastic are these, our collective children. I’m sure that they have always been that way, from Desert Storm, to the Siege of Khe Sanh, to Pork Chop Hill, to D-day, to the Argonne forest, to Gettysburg, to Bunker Hill.
Last semester a young veteran of the Iraq war was a student in my economics class at Winona State University. Quiet and unassuming, he sat in the back of the class. One day, after I found out about his military service, I made a statement to the rest of the class. I said, “In the back of the class sits an Iraq war veteran.” As the students looked back to recognize him, I further added, “This is a man among boys”. As one who has enjoyed his freedom but never served in the military, I have only one thing to say to each and every one of you who serves or has served. YOU ARE MY HERO!