Memorial Day’s meaning more than a start to summer

Published 6:03 pm Saturday, May 29, 2010

“Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God”

This solemn inscription is etched in the side of the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington, D.C.; a lasting legacy to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice but never returned home.

For many of our nation’s veterans, a return home came without fanfare and celebration, without marching bands and welcoming families. For some veterans — those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their life — their return home was in a flag-draped coffin and was greeted with a mournful salute.

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While Memorial Day often is looked at today as a festive kickoff to the summer vacation season, complete with trips to the beach, cookouts or days on the lake, its true meaning quietly lies in our nation’s cemeteries or battlefields far from home.

It is these fallen veterans — our fallen heroes — who have given their lives to defend the freedoms we all enjoy today.

And the selfless defense of our country continues today.

I am the grandson of two World War II and Korean conflict veterans and the son of a Vietnam War veteran. I honor the service they provided our country, and I also honor the patient worry my grandmothers and mother lived with while the men they loved were abroad.

For my family, we were fortunate to have our loved ones return home safely. For many families, such fortune is not afforded.

As a former Marine, I have a place in my heart for the men and women who wear our nation’s uniform and go without question where they are ordered.

Their service knows no politics and knows no boundaries. Their service is built on honor, trust and commitment. Their service is built on a dedication to their country and their service.

As with past generations, my generation now knows war. We know loss, and we know sacrifice. My generation now has veterans of foreign wars and battlefield scars.

In my years in Alexander City, Ala., I covered the loss of two of our young sons — Marine Lance Cpl. J.T. Sims and Army Pvt. First Class Jacob “Spanky” Harrelson.

Both men volunteered to serve their country, and both men gave their lives for their country. These men knew what their service required, and they served honorably.

This weekend, I too will enjoy the holiday and look forward to a summer vacation and occasional cookouts on the grill. But this weekend, I will also make sure to take time and think of the ones who made such a weekend possible.

Semper Fidelis.