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Memorial Day Challenges Us as Citizens, and as a Nation


Last updated 5/29/2019 at 8:13am

Americans have much to be grateful for on Memorial Day, and a great deal of the credit belongs to those who defended America and global democracy in two World Wars. It is only appropriate that our thoughts should turn to those who sacrificed so much for us.

From the bloody trenches of the first "Great War to end all wars" to the shell-cratered beaches of distant Pacific islands, bravery in the face of the enemy has been a hallmark of the American military. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Merchant Marines, those who paid the ultimate price, giving their lives for our freedoms, should always be first in our memories.

Locally, we must express our gratitude to the scores of students of Bok Academy, led by Civics teacher Nicole Sealey, who joined with the veterans of the Lake Wales VFW and American Legion chapters to clean three local cemeteries, and place flags and poppies over the Memorial Day weekend. That conditions were found to be less than satisfactory at the Willow Lawn Cemetery, resting place of scores of veterans of African ancestry, is disturbing. America's dark history of segregation, forcing even the men of the famed Tuskegee Airmen to the back of the bus, is still reflected in the condition of older gravesites there.

In an era when patriotism is too often grabbed to use as a shield by politicians, including those who avoided serving, it is even more critical to remember those who did. Millions who served and survived also deserve our undying gratitude. Caring for our veterans should be among this nations' top priorities, as it is part of a sacred bargain. There are an estimated 60,000 homeless veterans in the United States today.

A local veteran, Lieutenant Colonel William Rumse, fought in the First World War, when the use of poison gas killed tens of thousands of sleeping men. Recognizing the horror of that mass murder, international treaties banned the use of gas as a weapon, and established rules of conduct and honorable treatment of prisoners. Those, too, are sacred commitments.

If our nation is to remain strong, it is critical that we maintain our defenses, avoid unnecessary wars, and seek to stand on the highest moral ground. President Ronald Reagan referred to America as "the shining City on a Hill" that all nations could aspire to emulate. It is up to us to maintain and demonstrate that respect.


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