In their debt … forever

Published 1:16 am Monday, May 26, 2008

By Staff
Four years ago, the editorial published in the newspaper on Memorial Day noted that a little more than 800 U.S. military personnel had been killed in Iraq.
This Memorial Day, that number has surpassed 4,000. That’s too high. Four years ago, 800 was too high. One more death will be too high.
But Americans have been dying in wars since colonists first moved here. Feel free to debate whether this nation should be at war in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the borderless state known as “terrorism.” That should be debated. What should not be debated is supporting our troops.
Troops don’t make policy; they carry out policy. Have a problem with that policy? Take those concerns to the policy-makers.
Memorial Day is a time to honor this nation’s war dead. This nation is alive because Americans have been willing to die to keep its message of freedom and liberty alive. Those war dead should be honored each day; their ultimate sacrifices remembered each day.
The origin of Memorial Day is somewhat murky, but the reason for it is crystal clear. Women’s groups in the South were decorating graves of Confederate soldiers before the end of the Civil War.
According to the Web site, “Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. On May 5, 1868, Logan declared in General Order No. 11 that:
Although several towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, every city, town and village in America should lay claim to Memorial Day, or at least what it represents.
Perhaps no one knows the true meaning of Memorial Day better than someone who’s life was saved by the soldier, sailor, airman, Coastie or Marine next to him or her. It’s been said time and again that many American war heroes did not die for their country, but they died to save the lives of the person or persons in the foxhole or battle station next to them.
Memorial Day is more than just the “official” start of the summer season. But many of us think of it just that way. It’s time to acknowledge Memorial Day for what it is — a time for this nation’s people to collectively honor America’s war dead.
It’s a time to remember Kevin Jones, a Washington man and Army soldier killed when a roadside bomb exploded in Iraq in September 2005. It’s a time to remember Johnathan Kirk, a Marine from Pamlico Beach who died in April 2007 from wounds received when a roadside bomb exploded in Iraq.
Their sacrifices should be remembered each day of the year, not just Memorial Day.
We owe them that … and much more.