Respecting those today who earned it

“The old general returned to the scene of battle,

Where the great war had been fought,

Once more he recalled the devastation,

And the carnage that was wrought.

As he walked among the white crosses,

He remembered the sacrifices made,

Deep inside he wonders now,

Was it all worth the price they paid?

And he thinks about war itself,

What message does it give?

Is it right that some must die?

So others might have a chance to live?”

“The Old General” was composed by longtime Salem resident, family man and veteran Bill Galchick.

Many of you likely knew him. He is gone now like so many who defended our country. Bill was a great guy and great family man. You may have known him. A ballfield at Memorial Park honors his name. He was also a great patriot — a World War II veteran of which there are so few left these days. Several of Bill’s sons served.

His words should resonate throughout all of us. Especially on this very special day. Even taking into account the many challenges facing our nation, we Americans enjoy liberties, security, peace and prosperity that is the envy of most other people in the world. Those who guarantee all that to us, the men and women of our armed forces, willingly sacrifice liberties, security, peace and prosperity for themselves.

Sometimes they give their very lives for us. Today we honor those who made that ultimate sacrifice. As Americans have done for generations, we as a nation pause on Memorial Day to reflect on the gift given over and over again to us for more than two centuries by those who died while in service to our country. It is a gift — willingness to lay down one’s life for fellow Americans — beyond repaying.

Merely in statistics, the number is enormous: One count of Americans in uniform killed during armed conflicts totals 1,319,943. The number could be much higher — and it does not include the many who have died in so-called “peacetime.” No named war officially involves the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard this Memorial Day. Surely be thankful for that.

Yet while we enjoy peace and security, many of those who serve are in danger in covert missions, humanitarian work and training exercises. Men and women who enlist in our all-volunteer military give up most of the blessings they ensure for us. Their freedom is restricted severely. A separate, often stricter, code of law governs them. Their security lasts only as long as their country does not need them for dangerous work. Many could earn far more in private-sector jobs. And for them, there never really is peace of the kind we take for granted.

Throughout our area this Memorial Day weekend, there have been and will be solemn ceremonies paying tribute to our honored dead. Nearly all will have been organized by veterans who understand service, honor and sacrifice far better than civilians. It is appropriate in a way that our honored dead are saluted by their former comrades in arms. It is not appropriate for us to take those who served and do so today, living or dead, for granted. We owe them virtually every blessing from which we Americans benefit. God bless them all.

So today, whether you attend a former Memorial Day ceremony or not, pause for a moment to reflect on that. If you can, thank a veteran. Think of all the flags placed upon our deceased veterans in area cemeteries. It is literally breathtaking to visit a cemetery awash in red, white and blue. Nearby formal ceremonies are being held today in Salem, Lisbon, Columbiana, Moultrie and Leetonia. There is a reason for Memorial Day. Others served so that others could live. Honor that thought.