There is a cartoon that circulates annually this time of year. With a picture of a young boy at the table and hands in prayer position and a set of dog tags in the opposite corner, the cloud reads, “Thanksgiving is a day we take pause to give thanks for the things that we have. Memorial Day is the day we set aside to give thanks to those who fought for the things we have.”
Memorial Day evokes for many, memories that run a myriad of deep emotions. On this Memorial Day, please remember in your thoughts and prayers, service members past, present and future.
The days we live in are among the most challenging in our nation’s history. Those in uniform and those entering the service are guaranteed a position in a combat zone in their near future. History has shown us that each American generation steps up to the challenges it faces. Time and again, those that step up first are our military—and its youngest members often pay the highest price.
Since the Global War on Terror began, 79 West Point graduates have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of the fallen were born in the 1980s and held the grade of first lieutenant, a rank achieved within 24 months of graduation. The death rate of graduates is “three times the percentage of graduate deaths in Vietnam, six times higher than what befell former cadets in the Second World War, and thirteen times those killed in the First World War” reported Chris Smith of the New York Times Magazine on June 8, 2007.
Among the fallen warriors, are 1st Lt. Laura Walker, West Point Class of 2003, killed in Afghanistan on August 18, 2003, and 2nd Lt. Emily Walker, Class of 2005 killed in Iraq on Sept 12, 2005. Their lives ended too early—their stories, too soon.
Early this week, CNN launched “Home and Away: The fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq,” an interactive website site that tracks service members hometowns against a map of where they died. It also includes memories of the fallen by friends and families. Take a few minutes to learn about some of those who fought for the things we have.
Memorial Day once again reminds us that what we enjoy as Americans, rests on the back of so many veterans who have sacrificed to gain and preserve the freedoms we so often take for granted. Please do not take for granted those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and payment for the riches we all share. Remember them on this special day.