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Who We Honor on Memorial Day: The True Heroes

My church is an old one that has been around since before the Civil War.  The people who attend my church are a wide range of ages.  There are lots of kids, but we just celebrated one parishioner's 105th birthday - and, yes, she was at church as she is every Sunday.


Something that struck me the other day is that we have only one remaining World War II veteran.  Until just the last few weeks he was there every Sunday.  His story is typical of that aptly titled "greatest generation."  Early in the war he became a bomber pilot and unlike most of his colleagues, he got through his allotted number of missions.  In his mid-20's he ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel commanding a squadron in 8th Air Force.  Although now bent over almost double and moving with such difficulty it is almost painful to watch, one can still see the commander in him.  However, he is now alone.  At this point, his fellow airmen are almost all gone.


My friend from church, like my own father, made it home from the war.  Countless others did not.  At cemeteries around the world are the graves of American Marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors who gave their lives in the service of our country.  And let's also not forget the tens of thousands of service members whose bodies have never been found.  Some of those graves, marked or unknown, contain the remains of true heroes.  Some - perhaps many more - are simply the final resting places of ordinary people who were just doing their duty.  Whether they were almost supernaturally brave warriors or just unlucky, generals or privates, those fallen citizens are who we honor on Memorial Day.  In reality, all of these men and women are heroes.  America is a great country.  Our greatness and freedom is in no small part due to the ultimate sacrifices that many have made for us.  We should never forget.