Honoring our heroes isn’t just for one day

One year ago we were still coming down from the high of the USS Abraham Lincoln homecoming and the festivities of a ticker-tape parade in a city that hadn’t seen anything like that in a long time.

One year ago there were families who had loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere) who were still alive. For them, Memorial Day is not some desperately needed three-day weekend. It is a funeral all over again. It is a reason to cry or to stay glued to the news coverage of the latest developments in Iraq.

One year from now, a new group of grieving families will join their club.

For the rest of us, it’s not enough anymore to stop and remember. What does that mean, anyway? A personal moment of silence while we slosh barbecue sauce over ribs? A fleeting thought as we battle traffic while running errands? It’s not that we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves or our families today. But we need to ask ourselves if we truly value the meaning of this day and if we’ve taught our children to do the same.

Memorial Day is a holiday that belongs to all of us no matter what our religion or heritage, yet it often gets less attention that many others. This is one of only a few days a year that we all have something in common – a free country that came at a high cost. It is a day we remember those who died protecting and creating freedom here and abroad. It is a day we honor those who saw the hell of war no matter where or when and did not live to tell their stories.

Throughout Snohomish County and across the country, those who saw the same horrors and made it back home will tell their stories and those of their friends who died by their sides. This year, the living were honored, too, with the dedication of the World War II Memorial in the nation’s capital on Saturday.

If you’re looking for ways to acknowledge this day, consider following the example set by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which honors the dead by helping the living. Consider attending one of many local ceremonies scheduled for today. Or commit yourself to taking on a veteran’s history project for a national record. What an honor it would be to help a military family right here in our county. What peace of mind that would give that family’s soldier serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere right now.

Let this day be one that prompts gratitude and service toward veterans and their families year round.

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