Memorial Day

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A South Marion Citizen editorial

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. Television and movie makers even try to re-create the feeling of what it was like to fight.
But, for those who were not there, whose lives are young, the wars are ancient history. The Revolution, 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, where Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders get more attention than those fighting for freedom.
People who follow those stories would rather the days weren’t spoiled by reminders of those who died. They don’t want to know about the soldiers, sailors, Marines and fliers who were killed serving their nation. We don’t want to see the row upon row of gleaming white grave markers in the cemeteries that have taken the place of battlefields from coast to coast and locations worldwide. We don’t want to hear stories of the boys and girls who went away, never to return, or of the families that suffered a loss, or the sense of emptiness that never went away.
But on Memorial Day, we must remember. And in our area, there are too many people who can remember losing a relative or a friend in one of the past wars. For their sake, we honor the deceased.
Amid the picnics and parties on Memorial Day, many will gather for ceremonies honoring our war dead, especially in our individual communities and at Veterans Memorial Park at Highland Cemetery, and for some the sorrowful memories of the past will return.
We must remember the 4,400 colonists who died in the American Revolution.
We must remember the 2,200 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.
Or the more than 2,000 killed as part of the continuing Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
And so, we try to explain to those who haven’t been there why they, too, must remember.
We point out that every name engraved on the Vietnam Wall, every white marker in the graveyard could be that of friend or family member. Each marks the death of someone very much like us, men and women who lived lives very much like ours, who played baseball and hopscotch on sunny days, who loved picnics and days at the lake, who dreamed of careers and love in the immortal days of youth, and who died in battles far away because their country said it needed them.
No matter how difficult it might seem, we must not forget. For their sacrifice, we owe them at least that much.