For many Americans, Memorial Day marked the start of summer. It is a well-earned day off – a day to spend precious time with friends and family and maybe fire up that grill. It is a privilege we in this country enjoy thanks to the sacrifices for many generations of men and women made on our behalf.
It is also somber day of reflection. A time to remember those men and women who helped deliver us our freedoms, but who never got the chance to step off the battlefield.
This year, Memorial Day was a bit different than in years past. We were not out taking part in remembrance ceremonies, watching parades or enjoying fireworks with our families. I have enjoyed those things just as much as the next person, but the merriment often makes it easy to lose sight of what the day is truly about. Behind it all, Memorial Day is about the sacrifice of American heroes who raised their right hands to say it is I who will defend America, and if needed, lay down my life for my country.
That debt has been paid time and again in the name of all Americans so that we may continue to enjoy life’s most treasured moments each and every day. And for too many American families, the absence of a loved one is a paint that lasts a lifetime. We cannot begin to imagine the magnitude of the loss these families have experienced. The sacrifices they have made and continue to endure are a testament to their courage, strength and resiliency in the face of tragedy.
After nearly two decades of bloodshed in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and now parts of Africa, we have to be concerned that our citizens may have become somewhat numb to war. But make no mistake about it, Americans are still fighting and giving their lives so that freedom will ring.
There were 22 American service members killed in Afghanistan last year. But 22 is just a number. A figure. It doesn’t begin to describe those individuals, who can no longer speak for themselves. It’s up to us to keep their memories alive.In March of this year, two Marines lost their lives in Iraq while battling Islamic State fighters in mountainous caves. Both joined in 2004. They only knew the Marine Corps during a time of war. On the day they died, they were engaged in a fight so intense and remote that it took six hours to recover the fallen Marines. We remember and honor Gunnery Sergeant Diego Pongo and Captain Moises Navas, both special operations Marines. Today and every day, thank you.
It is up to us to keep the memories of these selfless heroes alive. Heroes, like Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, who in 2019, became the first female sailor killed in battle against the Islamic State. She perished in a suicide attack in northern Syria. A New York native, Kent was due to earn a doctorate in clinical psychology when she was sent on her fifth combat deployment. We honor and remember you, Senior Chief Kent. Today and every day, thank you.
We are all duty-bound to remember our fallen. To tell their stories and to care for their families who need our support when struck by a great loss. We must remember their sacrifice. We honor it. And we offer our humble thanks.
One astonishing fact of military service is that heroes like these men and women walk among us. They are titans in our communities. And I encourage you to seek out and learn the stories of your own hometown heroes. Many of them honor the fallen throughout the year by ensuring their survivors get a proper welcome home. It’s also important to recognize those who didn’t wear the uniform, but who remember the sacrifices through their volunteerism at veterans cemeteries and in other important ways that honor our fallen brothers and sisters.
The men and women who answered freedom’s call are remarkable people. They train as a team, and sometimes fight like a family, but they have each other’s backs, no matter how dire the straits. So, let’s be sure we have their backs. It’s especially important, during this time of isolation and uncertainty, that we honor the legacy of those lost by caring for those left behind.
Memorial Day 2020 will be long remembered as the year of the Covid-19 Virus Outbreak. For the first time in our history, we were forced to leave our jobs, close schools and told to remain at home. We must practice “Social Distancing” and wear face masks or coverings when going shopping; and most restaurants are carry-out only! Only the future will show if what we had to endure was right or wrong.
Thank you and may God bless our Armed Forces, our Veterans and America.
The above column was written from remarks made by William (Bill) King during the celebration of Memorial Day in Lima. King is the president of the Allen County Veterans Service Commission and the Adjutant of the Allen County Disabled Veterans, Chapter 19. He also is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Legion and the Marine Corp League, all in Lima. He has been involved with veterans for about 40 years and says he “hopes to continue as long as I can.”