Military deserves our thanks

Published 3:40 pm Monday, May 30, 2011

Very few of the things I cover for the paper have the ability to move me to tears.

I don’t get emotional very easily, so the times I’ve done so when covering work events are pretty few and far between. Obviously, it’s best to avoid it at all costs. Interviews with cancer survivors and the survivors of murder victims have come close, but I usually keep it together without too much trouble.

However, Memorial Day and Veterans Day events always take the cake. While covering these events, I’m always reminded of how many have sacrificed so much for those of us back home who too often take their service for granted.

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In the Revolutionary War, thousands of men died fighting for the colonies’ independence from England because they believed in the things that still make this country great.

In every war and conflict since then, thousands have died to protect America, to protect its allies and to protect its ideals around the world. Every day, Americans benefit from the freedoms that so many in this world can only dream of, freedoms that are protected vigorously by so many millions of soldiers every day.

Those of us who don’t come from military families can easily forget about the many sacrifices made by the military — both by those who die in their service and by those who come back physically wounded and emotionally traumatized. Even service members who serve during times of peace give up countless blessings the rest of us enjoy.

But on these special days set aside to honor our military past and present, forgetting can be the hardest thing to do. I’m not talking about the ubiquity of blowout sales at furniture stores and car dealerships, but rather about the millions of flags and flowers decorating those distinctive, white, oblong gravestones at cemeteries across America.

On Friday and on Monday, I visited the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery. On Friday, I was taking photos of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, active duty military, veterans and various volunteers who had turned up to help place flags on every single gravesite in the cemetery.

On Monday, I attended the Memorial Day ceremony held there every year. But it wasn’t until all the speakers were done speaking, the wreaths had been placed and the ceremony had concluded that I walked over to the gravesites, where dozens were quietly gathered around their loved one’s final resting place, that I began having to fight back tears.

I managed to keep them at bay this time, but I was no less moved by the rows upon rows of stones, each of which memorializes a military member or spouse who sacrificed those years of dedicated service.

To all the veterans, active duty military, reservists and especially those who have died and their families, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.