A Memorial Day moment of thanks

Memorial Day weekend is now upon us and, sadly, it will be observed by so many as anything but that for which the day is intended.

There will be picnics in the parks, surfing at our nation's beaches, four-wheeling over the dunes, and family gatherings that are too numerous to try and describe.

Though these things in themselves are certainly not wrong, I know that many people will be so engaged in activity that they will not give thought to the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice that we might be a free nation.

The Memorial Day observance actually began in 1865 following the Civil War, a day to decorate the graves of the many men who lost their lives in battle. This observance was carried on until after World War II, and it was in 1967 when Congress acted to make the last Monday of May officially observed as a day to remember all men and women who died in defense of freedom.

Several years ago my wife, Lynda, and I attended a ceremony at the National Cemetery in Cave Creek. I was deeply moved to see that each of the hundreds of graves had a small American flag placed on it. As the wind blew gently across the land, the flags waving appeared to be a sea of red, white, and blue. The sight was deeply moving.

Also, some years ago, I stood in pouring rain, at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and read the names of men I had known. Seeing their names engraved in stone was a reminder of the fact that freedom comes at a great price - human life.

No one likes war! But, as long as there are dictators who oppress their people and terrorists who want to destroy us, war will continue and lives will be lost. May those who died for the cause of freedom always be remembered with a sense of deep gratitude for the sacrifice they made for each of us.

I am proud to be an American! I always have been and always will be proud! I am very patriotic, and I am always moved when I stand for the National Anthem or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I am not ashamed for anyone to notice that my eyes well up with tears when I hear "taps" being played, or when a "21-gun salute" is given in honor of a fallen soldier. And, when I have stood at the graveside of a veteran and offer words of comfort to the family, I always offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for their service to this country.

Perhaps you do not personally know someone who lost their life in battle but still a prayer of thanksgiving is in order. If it were not for those who were willing to defend democracy and freedom, we would not be a free nation - one where we can enjoy the activities we have grown accustomed to on Memorial Day!