Lawrence A. Huffman: Let’s start a new tradition to honor fallen

Memorial Day is rapidly approaching. The last Monday in the month of May is the official day of recognition of those who died while on active duty defending this country.

Its roots are in the post-Civil War era, when the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans organization of the day, designated it “Decoration Day” for the graves of deceased Union veterans.

The veterans organizations of today, particularly the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, decorate the graves in Lima and Allen County with American flags each year. While many families have a family member they commemorate every year, there are fortunately fewer families that bear that sadness each year. This is due to the decreasing number of conflicts this country engages in and the proficiency with which we engage in them.

Our involvement in Vietnam from 1964 to 1975 resulted in 58,281 deaths of military personnel. Our engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021 resulted in 7,051 Killed in Action.

It is difficult to personalize the loss of those who fought and died by talking only about numbers. Families keep alive the memories of their relatives, but what of the others whose families have also passed? Maybe we can make the holiday more meaningful if, each year, we each pick a veteran killed in action and learn something about him or her.

On Memorial Day, we can then share with others the circumstances of that veteran’s life, service and sacrifice. To let others know we are able and willing to share this information, we could wear a name tag with the name of the selected veteran, including rank and branch of service. It would not be necessary to broach the subject with anyone, hopefully those who know you will ask, “Why are you wearing a name tag with the name of someone I don’t know?” whereupon you can educate them. In the process, you can ask the same of others you meet, and you will find out about heroes you didn’t know about.

It has been said that “every man dies two deaths. The first is when he breathes his last. The second is when we no longer mention his name.” If this catches on, many more deceased veterans will be remembered for many more years to come. Isn’t remembering them the very least we can do?

Lawrence A. Huffman is an attorney in Lima. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.