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Today is a different kind of Memorial Day

Today is different. It is a Memorial Day unlike any of those in the past. There will not be any red, white and blue full splendor public services. No parades, no formal placing of the wreaths and no speeches in front of crowds honoring those who served and died. There will not be any sounds of “Taps” resonating across freshly-cut cemeteries and around and over headstones. No echoing of gun and cannon salutes.

All of that will be missing today. These virus-inflicted times made certain of that. But still we can pay homage on this Memorial Day. You shouldn’t need a parade or public gathering to do that. You can still visit a cemetery and quietly pay your respects. Bring along a prayer of thanks and maybe some flowers. Is there any place else that is as serene and humbling as a cemetery on Memorial Day? We think not. Thanks, too, to the AMVETS, VFW posts and volunteers including children who made sure thousands of flags were placed across our region today on the graves of veterans.

We Americans enjoy liberties, security, peace and prosperity that are 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 their very own liberties, security, peace and prosperity so they can do for others.

Sometimes they give their very lives for us. Today we honor those who made that ultimate sacrifice. As Americans have done for generations we use today 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 current 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 are enjoying joy, peace and security right now, many of those who serve are in danger in covert missions, humanitarian work and training exercises. Men and women enlisting 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. Many could earn far more in private-sector jobs. They often are serving thousands of miles away from their families. For months at a time. And for them, there never really is peace of the kind we take for granted.

It is appropriate 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 for granted. We owe them virtually every blessing from which we Americans benefit. God bless them all.

So today — virus fallout be damned — 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 cemeteries. It is literally breathtaking to visit a cemetery awash in red, white and blue. There is a reason for Memorial Day. Others served so that others like you and your family could live. Honor that. Be reverent. Even on this very different Memorial Day.

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