Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Memorial Day, 2010

Since the sound of the first shots being fired at sunrise on April 19, 1775, in Lexington, MA, through the present-day sounds of battle being heard in Afghanistan, there have been an estimated 1,314,000 Americans killed in combat in service to this Nation.

Think of it this way: Twenty-two miles driving distance from Lexington is Boston's Fenway Park, with a capacity of 39,600 people. Fenway would have to fill to capacity a total of 33 times to equal the number of American war dead in our history. Thirty-three times! It would have to sell out every day in May, plus June 1st and 2nd, with different people each day, to reach the 1.3 million total.

And that doesn't count the thousands upon thousands of wounded--physically and/or emotionally--who bled and suffered and came home changed forever. It doesn't count the grieving parents or the widowed spouses. It doesn't count the children left without a parent. It doesn't count the friends and classmates and teammates and unit buddies whose grief also adds to and pushes out those ripples of impact that spread far beyond the home address of the deceased. For every U.S. soldier, sailor, Marine, or airman who has fallen, for every white cross or Star of David in an American or foreign cemetery, many, many more have been touched.

Our fallen heroes are our collective loss. And, odd as it sounds, it is also our collective gain. We are free because of them. We can choose how we work, how we play, how we worship, whom we vote for, where we live, because of them. We have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in more than just the theoretical, because of them.

This weekend, when Old Glory snaps in the breeze, proudly displaying its radiant colors and soliciting emotions that tend to constrict one's throat and moisten one's eyes, when taps plays and drives its somber notes into the very deepest parts of us, think of them. And their families. And those who are in harm's way, still, in dangerous and far-away places.

But especially think of them.

All 1,314,000 of them.

They gave us all they had. They've honored us, and made us better. "The last full measure," as Mr. Lincoln so aptly spoke at Gettysburg.

Now we pause to honor them.

And to thank them. All of them. The thirty-three stadiums of them.

May they rest in peace, and may God bless.

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