Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010 - Column

Antelope Valley
Edward Mooney, Jr.
May 31, 2010

Title: American Heroes are from every walk of life.

When I close my eyes, I can see the rows of gravestones, precisely set in seas of neatly manicured grass blades.  I see my father’s grave, and remember his service to our country.  He spent the 50 years after the Korean War with a 40% disability from his time in the United States Air Force.  It is to him that I dedicate this week’s column.

While he didn’t die, he did lose a part of his life in the service of his country.  As a child I was embarrassed about his scratchy writing, never really understanding why his right arm was withered. But he was proud to fly our flag, and kept his Air Force honorable discharge certificate on the wall.

Mine is a simple story, but repeated numerous times across our great country, in all 50 of our honorable states.  There are some incredible stories of sacrifice we need to meditate on today.  But I don’t believe that those who paid the ultimate sacrifice would want that.

Let us consider that we are their memorial.  We who survive, in order to honor those who died in defending this country, should live each day as a tribute to them.  It is in the proper living of our lives that we sanctify their lost lives.  We must become their breathing memorials.

I believe -

- when I stand up and defend the right of others to practice their religion, even if it differs from my own, I honor the Army soldier who died in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.  He may have been a Christian, or a Jew, or even an agnostic, but he was the True Heart of America.  We must never forget that people of all faiths have given their all for this jewel called the United States.  When we look down on other faiths, we look down on all those who died to defend our right to be a Christian – even if they were not Christians.

- when I stand up and defend the right of others to speak their opposition to anything in society, even if I disagree with them, I honor the Navy sailor who died in the Battle of Midway in 1942.  He may have been from the South or the North, and may have disagreed with his shipmates on politics, but he was an American.  He died so these disagreements would be allowed.  He was the Voice of American Freedom.  When we try to silence those who disagree with us, we cancel the meaning of the deaths of those who died in uniform.

- when I stand up and speak out against racism, or hatred of people who are different from me, I honor the black Marine who died in the battle of Saigon in 1968.  He may have had a skin color that was not like my own, but he was a True Blue American.  When we see people of a skin color different than our own as “not quite human”, we negate the deaths of people of other colors who wore our uniform.

- when I reach out my hand to those who are less fortunate than I, I honor the Air Force airmen who died bailing out from their burning aircraft over the cold, barren fields of Korea in 1951.  Our servicemen came from rich families, poor families, and in-between families, but they saw each other as brothers, and worthy of looking after each other.  When we respect only those with money, we destroy the meaning of the deaths of those who were penniless.

- when I treat women in our society with respect I honor those women, all the way back to the Revolution, who served, and those who gave their all.  It is when we look at women as second class citizens that we diminish those who served and died.  The spilled blood of these women is just as sacred to this country as any man’s.

- when I live the values of our Constitution, I become the memorial of all who died protecting my freedoms, as outlined in the Bill of Rights.  You see, people of all creeds, colors and faiths died so you can choose to live and believe as you wish.  That’s called Freedom, by the way.

Every year I ask myself one question on Memorial Day.  Will you be a memorial to those who bought your freedom with their blood, or will old stones be their only monument?  What’s your answer?  Which do you believe is the better memorial?

Thought for the Week: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.- Abraham Lincoln 

Edward Mooney, Jr., a Palmdale author, is the 2010 DAR History Teacher of the Year for California.

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