Honoring those who serve selflessly

Published 11:45 pm Friday, May 25, 2012

They left their homes, in some cases their spouse and children, at a young age, marching off to fight an enemy they did not even know.

They left as boys and girls, only to return as men and women, their youth deserted in a far-away foxhole, rice paddy or even the floor of a steamy dessert.

They are the millions of soldiers of the armed forces who through the years have protected the freedom many take for granted. Veterans have paid a steep price, many made the ultimate sacrifice, a life cut short in its prime, to preserve an ideal.

Monday is Memorial Day, the day in which the country steps aside and honors veterans. It is perhaps the most solemn of holidays, lacking the Christmas frivolity or the nonstop revelry of Mardi Gras. Rather than “Joy to the World” or “Mardi Gras Mambo,” the tone of the day is the bone-chilling playing of “Taps.”

But Memorial Day also is one of the country’s most significant celebrations. Without the sacrifices of generations of unselfish veterans, democracy would still be an ideology rather than a way of life.

Freedom does not come cheaply, and it is paid with the currency of the blood of scared young men and women who often do not understand or perhaps even agree with the cause for which they are fighting. But they march on, honoring their commitment to serve.

Patriotism has taken a hit since the 1960s, the roots of that movement buried in the uproar of the Vietnam War. But now as the country confronts new and more dangerous threats, even on its own soil, the importance of the military has once again become a headline topic.

Many no doubt will celebrate Memorial Day with the traditional barbecue, or in this part of the country a crawfish boil. During the course of the day, take a moment to thank a vet for his or her service to the country. Thank that person for the sacrifice he or she made or perhaps is still making.

They deserve our salute. Without their dedication, without their courageous acts on remote battlefields that are little more than dots on a map for most, their guts on remote battlefield, freedom would still be an untested experiment.