As I write this missive, Memorial Day is approaching. Memorial Day is all about Remembering.
This is one of several times a year that I take special time to express thanks for the generations of men and women who have sacrificed life and limb so that I can live in a free and open society. And I give thanks that we still have men and women who are committed enough to put their lives on the line to protect our way of life.
Each year since 1998, I have organized our city’s Memorial Day remembrance. I started in ’98 at the request of a city councilwoman whose husband was a retired Marine, as am I. She knew what she was doing when she approached me. She pointed out to me that the city had no formal Memorial Day program and she knew that’s all she had to say. I was in a position to make it happen and I did. It has become a commitment that I now look forward to.
The first year’s event was small and simple, with about 250 people attending. Each year we’ve added more, until now we have more than 1,200 people attending and it involves several civic and veterans groups, singing groups, Scouting groups, guest speakers, food and more.
But each year as I look over the crowd of spectators, I can’t help but wonder where all the other people are. We live in a town of about 35,000, so 1,200 is well under 5 percent of the population. I have to wonder what all the others are doing.
Are they going to other such events? Are they remembering as a family? Are they watching the national memorial on TV? Are they silently contemplating how good we have it in the USA and quietly thanking our predecessors?
Or are they sleeping in, planning barbeques, drinking beer, watching ball games and never even once giving a thought to the reason they are off from work to be able to do all this?
I have talked to other people across the country and this seems to be the trend; a small percentage of the population takes time to formally memorialize those who have given their lives so that we can enjoy freedom.
This also conforms to a statistic I heard the other day, that significantly less than 5 percent of the U.S. population has ever worn the uniform of our armed services or civilian national defense team (CIA, FBI, etc.). The folks who have served in those areas have seen firsthand what can happen if we lapse our national defense vigilance. You can bet that on Memorial Day these people and their families are showing the colors.
But I still have to wonder what all the others are doing, what they’re thinking, if they’re aware that their freedom to do nothing didn’t come easily or cheaply. Do they realize that there are and always will be bad people in the world who want to do them and their families harm? Do they understand that nobody really wants to fight but somebody has got to be ready? Do they acknowledge that other Americans whose names and faces they will never know died so that they can make the choice whether or not to spend an hour every year Remembering?
All rhetorical questions, I guess. As you go into your post-Memorial Day Friday, I encourage you to take a moment, sit back and think about all the good you have in your life, and then thank all the unnamed people – or maybe somebody you know – who has sacrificed life and limb to fight for the American ideal, the spirit of freedom.
Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is Director of Leisure Services (parks, recreation, library) in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (770) 631-2542 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.