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Memorial Day . . . Gratitude Day

May 30, 2011

Memorial Day . . . Gratitude Day

Memorial Day in the United States, originally called Decoration Day, was officially established in 1868 to honor those who died in service to the nation.  We have a debt of gratitude to those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf and on behalf of future generations.  Since the American Revolution, 1,343,818 men and women died in the nation’s conflicts.  Over 1.5 million have been wounded and nearly 40,000 are still listed as missing.  Many of them died for a cause in which they deeply believed.  For others, it was a job and they died for a cause our leaders believed in. Others were lost or harmed in the sweep of history. All of these lives were precious.

The importance of some of the national causes of times past has receded from our consciousness or may be unknown to many of us.  For example, how many of us know the point of the Philippine-American War (1899 to 1902), in which over 4000 Americans were killed and nearly 3000 wounded.  How many of us know the causes and purpose of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) in which 13,283 died.  Or the Korean and Vietnam Wars in which a total of 112, 000 lives perished.  Whether or not we believed in these causes or thought them worthy of the sacrifices that were made, the men and women who died in them did so for what was considered a greater good.  Their sacrifices shaped our nation and history, and hopefully helped preserve the freedom and benefits we enjoy today in a meaningful way.   We also owe thanks to those who served and returned with psychological wounds as well as those who came home unscathed.

Many others also made the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of our nation and communities.  Think of the people who died in civil rights struggles or to preserve public safety.  They too gave their lives for a greater good.

I like to think of Memorial Day as Gratitude Day.   I am deeply grateful for all of the people who took great personal risks, in whatever form, to preserve and strengthen our county.  In some cases we can see a direct connection to national benefits and rights we enjoy today.  In others, it’s harder to see.  Nonetheless, the sacrifices were made and the intentions, I hope, were honorable.

Let’s all take time today to honor those who risked everything so we can live the lives we do today.  Our gratitude should run deep.  To be a truly grateful nation, we need to be grateful citizens individually and collectively.

Steve Weitzenkorn

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