I serve on the board of Honor Flight Upstate, an organization that serves to take our state’s World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington. We charter an American Airlines jet and fly approximately 100 veterans per trip to D.C. to see their war memorials. It is a day filled with patriotic fervor and appreciation of our military men and women. Recently, we decided to transition into also carrying Vietnam veterans on our flights. To me, this is the best decision our organization has made to date.
I love the Greatest Generation, and am so honored to have been part of eight flights full of these American heroes, but everyone agrees that World War II veterans are worthy of our honor and our thanks. Unfortunately, too many Americans still do not honor the veterans of Vietnam because they disagree with the policies of the war. As such, millions of brave Vietnam Veterans have never received the welcome home they deserve. Those American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Southeast Asia also never received the outpouring of support they are due.
In the years that have passed since September 11th, 2001, many Americans have grown impatient and frustrated with the pace of progress in the war on terrorism. In their frustration, some fringe individuals and organizations have protested military funerals and memorial services. The heretical
members of the Westboro Baptist Church, which by no means represents the Christian community, have even gone so far as to picket military funerals with atrocious signs that read “God loves dead soldiers.” This kind of rhetoric is reprehensible, and ought to be repulsive to all Americans.
As we observe Memorial Day this week, we must mark this holiday not only with backyard barbecues, but with solemn remembrance of those who gave their lives for our freedom to have fun. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance,” this vigilance costs the lives of Americans in times of war. We modern Americans need to treat Memorial Day as our forefathers did before us, by honoring the dead even if we disagree with why they died. Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in the aftermath of the Civil War. It was called Decoration Day because Americans in the South and North decorated the graves of their war dead, in remembrance of their sacrifice. Union or Confederate, dead soldiers were honored and their graves were memorialized.
On this Memorial Day, we should put aside the politics of military campaigns that have cost American lives and honor those who have died for our freedom. It is truly American to debate political decisions and military actions, but we must equally honor those who died to make these debates possible. We must honor the sacrifice of our soldiers, even if we oppose the politicians who sent them to war.
God bless all who have given their lives for our country. God bless the United States of America.