We've received some interesting letters to the editor lately about military veterans. They were sparked by discussion of a proposed veterans' memorial at Soldiers Field, and the observance of Memorial Day. Here are two more letters set to run in the next couple of days. My comments — or, more accurately, question — follow.
To everyone who didn't take the time out for the Memorial Day ceremony:
I would like to thank you for not taking the time to remember those who took time out to fight for your freedom. They gave 3 million lives; 1.5 million wounded; and more than 38,000 became prisoners of war for you.
Over 44 million veterans did this for you and how did you thank them? By thinking of yourself and doing whatever made YOU happy. Remember someday your freedom will be gone, and you can stand up and say I helped this happen because I did not have the time to be part of the fight for freedom.
Remember YOUR children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will live in a country that you and I will not recognize!
May God continue to bless America.
I believe Barbara Upton's June 9 letter to the editor missed the purpose for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It is not the celebration of war. On the contrary. We reflect on the service and sacrifices made by our military servicemen and women who gave their lives for a principle and purpose greater than themselves.
When we honor fallen peace officers, we do not celebrate the criminals who murdered them, nor do we pay homage to the fire that snuffed out the life of a fireman.
Why do so many gather near graves on Memorial Day to place flowers and tokens of affection on their loved ones' graves? So they will be remembered. We honor their life, not the disease or accident that took them away.
Why have so many placed a paver with their veteran's name on the walkways of Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial? So they will be remembered. The footsteps we take are borne on the shoulders of those who died that we might remain free. We are continuing their noble journey.
Anyone who has given their life for another should have their name etched in stone. When we no longer remember our heroes we begin to lose our sense of value. To be forgotten is the greater loss.
I completely agree with Mr. Connell's letter. It's very nicely done, and expresses my personal sentiments on this issue.
But, I find Mr. Pederson's letter a bit troubling.
Although I've attended many Memorial Day services in the past, I didn't attend one this year. I was in the Brainerd area that weekend at my folks' cabin, and I didn't make it a point to drive into town for a ceremony. Honestly, I can't promise that I would have done so had a been in Rochester.
Does that make me unpatriotic? Does that mean I don't love my country? Does that mean I'm personally helping to ensure the downfall of democracy. I sure hope not.
Here's my question for those who contend that veterans don't get enough respect. How much adulation for veterans is enough? What should be our behavior? Should everyone in the community who is able attend a parade or memorial service on Veterans' Day, Flag Day, and Memorial Day? Should we all go to a cemetery and stand at the grave of a veteran for a moment of silence, even if we have no family or personal connection to the person whose body is in that grave. I don't know the answer to these questions, I'm just asking.
I have deep respect for veterans, especially those who died for their country, or were in combat and suffered wounds or mental trauma from what they endured. They are heroes, plain and simple, and I've written about many of these brave souls time and again in my column and in feature stories.
But should I feel guilty that I didn't serve in the military. Should I be made to believe that I'm less American, or less patriotic because I chose to go directly to college from high school and not do a stint in the Army or Navy? Should I hang my head in shame because I did not attend a Memorial Day service.
And here's another question I don't have the answer to. If you are a veteran, at what point — if ever — does that stop defining who you are? In other words, is it more important to have been a father or mother than to have served two or four or six years in the Air Force. Does there come a point where a career or vocation better defines who you are than a veteran of the U.S. military?
Again, I don't have the answer to these questions. I'd be curious to know what others think about this.