To The Herald-Whig:
On May 29th, America will set aside a day for its annual remembrance of all those who have sacrificed so much, even their lives, to keep America free and all those still on the front lines today.
Memorial Day was originally established to remember the fallen in the Civil War. The first Memorial Day, then called Decoration Day, was observed on May 5, 1866. For several decades, May 30 was set aside as Memorial Day, though it did not become a federal holiday until 1971, when Congress established the last Monday in May as the official holiday.
But, like many American holidays, too many Americans have come to treat it as just another day off work. They have forgotten the true nature of the holiday and who and what it memorializes. As a disabled veteran of the Vietnam War, I celebrate Memorial Day by remembering all the brave men and women who died in defense of our country, but especially the 58,307 men and eight heroic nurses who died in the Vietnam War. And though my memory is fading, I can still see the faces of friends who died in that distant land 50 years ago.
Recently, I had my annual checkup at the Quincy VA Clinic. As I was leaving, I stopped to make a follow-up appointment. Lying on the counter, I saw a red, white and blue card. Out of curiosity, I picked it up and read it. In memory of all who have served and who serve today and especially in memory of those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, I would like to share with you what the card said. It was titled "Definition of a Veteran."
"A veteran is someone who, at one point in one's life, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America, for an amount of up to and including my life. This is honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it." It was attributed to an unknown author.
As I get older, I find that tears come more easily than they did in my youth. And as I sit at my computer and write this letter in memory of all our nation's veterans, especially those who lie in cemeteries around the world, I unashamedly shed tears in their honor!