The writer, of Omaha, is director of Honor and Remember Nebraska Chapter.
On this Memorial Day, I hope you pause to reflect on its meaning and take an action that honors and remembers the sacrifice of America’s military fallen heroes.
Our fallen warriors gave their lives defending our most cherished brand of freedoms and way of life. They, like you and I have often recited, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It is a pledge that hopefully inspires you to do something that advances freedom and justice in the name of the fallen.
The price in lives is enormous. Since the birth of our nation, 1.3 million have given their lives for us. On average that’s 15 per day. And 3,000 of them were Nebraskans.
The reality is we will never know them all, but we know we owe them all. How can we repay the debt? One way is to pay tribute to their families. There are millions of Gold Star family members living who lost a loved one — mothers, fathers, spouses, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. If you know one of them, reach out to them. If not, pause to think of them. If you pray, say a prayer for them. A social media post is bound to ripple wide enough so a Gold Star family member reads it.
Our fallen heroes are the best of our nation’s treasures. Treasures more valuable than our national monuments, the Capitol building and White House, all the acres in our national parks and all the corn, cattle and soybean in the heartland.
We often hear, “I can’t imagine…” Mostly we don’t want to. But maybe we miss growing some of our human empathy by not stretching our comfort zone to envision what our soldiers experienced. Examples to imagine:
- Frostbite and bitter cold at Valley Forge, in the densely forested Ardennes Battle of the Bulge and Chosen Reservoir 17-day battle.
- The relentless thunderstorm throughout the Civil War’s Ox Hill battle.
- Life and death in the hellish trenches of World War I with rain, mud, cold, rats and disease.
- Crossing the English Channel to storm Normandy beaches on D-Day with a storm of gale-force winds above and very rough, 54-degree seas below.
- The sweltering heat and humidity of Iwo Jima, Tarawa and other Pacific islands where Marines came ashore into a fierce hail of mortars and bullets.
- Kamikaze aircraft flown into a ship and the ensuing fireball of flames, explosions, burning fuel and flesh.
- The constant wetness in the jungles of Vietnam and a forever dampness on your skin while engaging in near-daily lethal firefights.
- Patrols outside the wire in Afghanistan into its rugged mountains, with extreme temperatures and the enemy watching your every move.
- Massive dust storms in 115-degree days while in a Humvee or attack helicopter in Iraq.
In these places and hundreds like them, our soldiers fought. Many died.
Before gathering with friends and family in a backyard, beach or park to eat, drink and enjoy the day, I hope you attend a Memorial Day service.
Why? Because you know it’s a right thing to do and because you can. Our Constitution provides us with the coveted freedoms to do so.
George Washington, said, “My first wish is to see this plaque of mankind, war, banished from the Earth.”
Far too many have died and far too many families of the fallen have suffered way too much to not commit to anything less.
The lists of our fallen are easily found online. When you celebrate Memorial Day, take a few minutes to say aloud the names of five to 10 of Nebraska’s fallen heroes.