Monday, May 28, 2012

A salute to heroes past and present.

      Several years ago I had the opportunity to travel to the Nation's Capitol around Memorial day and see the sights. Among those we visited were two that will forever be woven into the very fabric of my memory, Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam War Memorial, I call it The Wall. Seeing Arlington adorned with all the flags for Memorial Day is a very sobering reminder of the terrible price so many have paid for the freedoms we all too often take for granted as is watching the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown. What a bunch of heroes those guys are. If you don't know the story behind them and their job or the selfless dedication with which they perform their tasks, voluntarily I might add, you owe it to yourself to research the details. It's a very moving story...

      The Wall was especially profound for me because during my time in service I acquired a POW/MIA bracelet. I chose one for an Air Force Sgt. who was from Michigan and over the years lost track of it though his name was eternally etched in my memory. SSgt Gene P. Stuifbergen lost 27 NOV '68 in Cambodia. I have since found the bracelet. I searched and  found his name on the Wall and spent some time alone with it, reflecting on what his sacrifice meant to me and my family and wondering what his time in the service had been like and how he might have met his end... It was a very deeply moving experience and one I'll never forget.

      I also take this day as a day to remember those who gave of themselves for the cause and made it home. They all left an awful lot of themselves behind during their tours of duty. War is hell, as it should be so that we never enter into it lightly or for frivolous reasons. Those who fight and survive bring back terrible memories and all too often horrific wounds. Not all scars are external and those may even be the worst. Wounds that run deep and weigh heavily on ones conscience and all too often go untreated. We would do well to remember these soldiers as well and make sure that we take care of them after their service is ended. Abraham Lincoln said: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

      As we relax today, perhaps gathering with friends and family, let's take a few moments to put down the grill tongs, set our drinks aside and spend some time in quiet reflection of what has been given us and honor those who not only gave us this precious gift but gave of themselves in the giving and maintaining this our Freedom.


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