Monday, May 31, 2010

Thank you for our country, veterans

Today is Memorial Day, a day that long has established the 'official' beginning of summer. It's traditionally a weekend of barbecues, maybe camping, get-togethers with friends and family. Maybe a trip to a veterans cemetery for ceremonies honoring those who served in defense of our country...

We watched the National Memorial Day concert last night on PBS and found it very moving, quite varied in musical styles represented. What made it so moving were the testimonials presented by a quartet of actors that were written by soldiers themselves and the widows of soldiers who were killed in action. They or their families were there, listening to those words that so changed their lives, and were warmly greeted by the actors.

Film footage of the various wars were intertwined with music from the National Symphony; a particularly poignant section showed cemeteries all over the world with row after row of simple monuments marking the graves of those who died fighting in the area. As Tony observed, the concert focused on the effects of war and the sacrifice rather than the glory of fighting. The effects are devastating.

I've visited Arlington National Cemetery twice, also witnessing the guard changing ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It is a somber, silent tribute to courage and dedication to duty that spans decades and generations.

To see firsthand those endless green lawns with precisely ordered markers is to realize, at least a little, how many lives have been completely, sometimes brutally, changed forever by service to country. How many families, how many widows and widowers and children, have been forever affected by their loved one's dedication?

We recently watched The Pacific, an often brutal depiction of World War II fought on tiny islands in what we often consider a tropical paradise. It was eye-opening and sobering, and sad. Certainly not everyone was a hero, some weren't particularly nice people at all. Most were just doing a job as best they could in a horrible war and in unbelievably awful conditions.

The series gave me a new appreciation for what our armed forces service men and women went through -- are going through even now. They deserve our thanks and our support of their courage and sacrifices, no matter the circumstances that brought them to the battlefield.

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