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The 33 years that I spent in Naval Aviation rekindles many memories of former shipmates around Memorial Day and the men that I sailed and flew with during Nam. I came home; many of them didn’t.
Over the years, whenever I happened to be in Washington D.C. I’d always go to The Wall to remember them and honor the 58,282 Americans killed in the war and the thousands more injured or still missing. They were someone’s son, and a great friend to others.
In one more generation, most of them that shared “liberty call” with me will be gone. Even now, we’re holding fast to the few who have first-hand memories of those who died in World War II and Korea. On a day not too far off, our last living connections to these wars will be severed, and their dead will forever belong to history.
The responsibility of remembrance falls to all of us — not just other veteran organizations, not just those serving in uniform; but every man, woman and child who woke up this morning in the land of the free.
More than ever, our elected leaders must set the example by making sure our military is able to render proper honors to the nations fallen. Instead, sequestration threatens to encroach on this sacred obligation. At home and around the world, U.S. forces are still fighting on our behalf and protecting us at home, but with far less. That means hard choices about where the money goes, so we can expect diminished representation in this year’s Memorial Day observances. No flyovers. Limited troop formations. Fewer bands playing the national anthem.
In Europe, where some 101,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are buried, this is embarrassing. Many U.S. cemeteries will have only a color guard and one military officer as guest speaker. The largest of these, the Meuse-Argonne, is the site of the U.S. Army’s deadliest battle, with 26,277 killed and 95,786 wounded. For the first time, the Army won’t have a presence at the ceremony there.
Some may see these as unnecessary expenses, but consider that during the Great Depression, the United States built eight federal monuments on foreign soil commemorating Americans who fought in World War I. Congress paid for Gold Star Mothers to make the pilgrimage to their son’s graves overseas. What message do we send to other nations when giving full honor to our war dead is suddenly subject to the budget axe? What does it say to the men and women serving today?
Remembering the fallen in a manner befitting their sacrifice is not a luxury. It is our solemn duty. These aren’t the kind of budget cuts Americans want. I believe most American patriots are committed to honoring those who passed on. And if possible, any Vet should go where their buddies are buried; otherwise, you have an incomplete in your life. A visit to Arlington or any cemetery on Memorial Day is a noteworthy Thank You.