Heights Elementary Flags for Veterans

Heights Elementary School third-grader Dentric Young carries flags while his classmate, Bryce Berryman, digs a hole to place the flags on the graves of veterans at the Galveston Memorial Park Cemetery in Hitchcock on Friday, May 24, 2015.

Today is the official observance of Memorial Day and the culmination of the long holiday weekend that for most of us marks the beginning of summer.

At first glance, it might seem hard to reconcile those contradictory meanings. On one hand, a day set aside for somber reflection about members of our armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice during war; on the other, a time of celebration, of rest and relaxation, a time to get away from work, gather with family and friends, maybe eat some barbecue and watermelon.

The two are less contradictory than they seem, however.

We send our troops off to war with assurances that they are defending all that’s good about the nation — democracy, freedom, justice, prosperity — and to secure peace.

Americans have responded to the calls to arms issued throughout our history for various reasons, including that they had no choice.

And while the assurances have been more true at some times in our history than at others, probably most of those who answered the call had some belief they were sacrificing in service to the high ideals that define the nation.

When people gather today to enjoy life in the United States, they are, by definition, honoring the sacrifices of people who died to secure that way of life.

We honor that sacrifice by making full use of democracy, freedom, justice, prosperity and peace and by having the courage, energy and good sense not to trade them away.

We also can honor our war dead by ensuring that we care for the veterans who survived.

The living can honor the dead by flying flags and visiting graves, by assembling peacefully, and speaking openly, by praying or choosing not to pray.

The main thing to remember on Memorial Day is that we are not owners but merely stewards of the rights and freedoms we enjoy.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

(4) comments

Wayne Holt

Well said, Michael. The bravery that many, many members of the military have shown is truly extraordinary. By all means, we should use the freedoms enumerated--but not granted--in our Bill of Rights and founding documents as a way to reinforce the notion these rights were, and are, worth the sacrifice so many have made.

Perhaps the most patriotic and meaningful way to honor America's service men and women is to force our civilian leadership, both Democrat and Republican, to bring these folks home from around the world, in so many places where we have no business being. Effective defense and deterrence, absolutely. Military adventurism and empire building...never.

Bailey Jones

And take care of each of them after they come home, and their loved ones when they don't.

Charles Douglas

Well articulated. Can't dress it up, not even a bit. I do fly my flag. Thank you for a beautiful written article.

James Lippert

Very well stated.

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