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Memorial Day, 2011

May 28, 2011
By John Sheda
“I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.”

2 Timothy 4:7

 This coming Monday, May 30, across America, from sea to shining sea, cities, towns, little communities will have their own Memorial Day services, honoring those fallen in war in order to keep you and me FREE. Memorial Day is the one day we set aside to remember and honor all our American men and women who have died fighting for the very thing we like most about America. The freedom to live pretty much as we please, as long as it’s not hurting anyone else. It’s a day to remember that almost 800,000 men and women have been killed in direct warfare since the American Revolution of 1775.  

 Please don’t let this statistic just pass by without a moment of reflection. This number represents the entire populations of Tama, Toledo, Chelsea, Montour, Traer, Vining, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and even  Des Moines. Combined!

 Killed in action. Dead on the battlefield. Died from wounds in a hospital. Lost in captivity. But killed defending the very rights and privileges we enjoy today. And every single on of these men and women died all too soon. Freedom is never free.

 And now with the ongoing wars we are currently engaged in, fresh reminders of the human reality of war hits each one of us head on. So many have sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandsons and daughters, neighbors and friends, aunts and uncles away from home right this very minute. Serving proudly in the United States Armed Forces. 

We may debate vigorously the merits of our current engagements or any war for that matter, but there should never be any doubt about our debt to those who answer the call to serve and are ready to give the ultimate sacrifice of their lives so we can live the way we live. September 11, 2011 should, no, must be a constant reminder that there are people in this world who hate us and everything we stand for.  

 I found this story preparing for today’s column.  It was told by one Captain James Rassmussen. Here is how he tells it.....”Traffic was blocked up at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and was moving way too slowly. I was probably going to be late for my appointment and was growing more and more impatient. The pace slowed to almost a standstill as I passed by Memorial Grove, the site built to honor the soldiers who died in the Gander airplane crash, the worst reployment accident in the history of the 101st Airborne Division, (Air Assault). 

 Because it was close to Memorial Day, a small American flag had been placed in the ground next to each soldier’s memorial cross. My only concern at the time, however, was getting past this bottleneck, getting out of the rain, going to my appointment and then heading home for a weekend of rest, relaxation and fun. All of a sudden just as the traffic was slowly getting started again, the car immediately in front of me stopped!!

 A soldier, a private of course, jumped out of that car in the pouring rain and ran over to Memorial Grove. I couldn’t believe it. This idiot was holding me up and everyone else behind me for who knows what. Some kind of prank or bet with one of his friends I thought. I was hot! And I was getting ready to get out of my car and give him the “butt-chewing” of his life for making me late. 

 He was getting soaked to the skin and his uniform was plastered to his frame.  I watched, with anger festering up inside me, until I saw that as he ran to the grove, he picked up one of the small flags that had fallen to the ground in the wind and rain and placed it upright again.

 Then, slowly, he stood at attention, saluted, ran back to his car and drove off. I’ll never forget that moment, that incident. This soldier, whose name I’ll never know, taught me more about duty, honor and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures. That simple salute—-that single act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said, ‘I will never forget.  I will keep the faith. I will finish the mission. I am an American soldier.’ I thank God for examples like that. And on this Memorial Day, I will remember all those who have given their lives for my freedom and one private, soaked to the bone, who stopped what he was doing in the pouring rain who honored them.”

 Three day weekend, picnics, parades, celebration, laugher and everything that goes with the official start of summer. It’s all that, but please, please remember just what Memorial Day is all about. And take the few moments to attend your town’s Memorial Day service. Take the time this Monday to stop what you’re doing and honor the fallen men and women of our Armed Forces.

 That’s The Way I See It......let me know at jsheda@indytel how you see it. God bless you and God bless America.





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