Memorial Day 2011

My grandfather was a Marine in World War II. I know because that much of his experience overseas, he told us. The rest was a wall of silence, an insistence that he didn't really see any fighting or play any heroic role in one of the pivotal conflicts in world history.

It probably was not true. Marines don't fight rearguard action, and my father -- who has studied World War II a lot more than I -- insists that people did not go to the islands where my grandfather said he was and not fight.

In any case, it doesn't matter. When it comes to the men and women who are willing to give their lives in our defense, one's heroism is not defined by whether or not they fought or died, but that they were willing to fight and die if the nation's survival depended on it. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," Jesus tells us in the Bible. Then what does that say about someone who is willing to lay down his life for complete strangers? To pay the ultimate price for those he or she will never meet?

Some did. Millions of people in this country have never had the opportunity to speak to their grandfathers, as I did, or even their fathers because of the horrors of war. Thousands of men and women will never be grandfathers or grandmothers or fathers or mothers because their lives were taken before they had even begun. You might agree or disagree with the wars they fought, but that was not their decision. Their only decision, the most valorous they could make, was to be the ones willing to fight those wars in service of their nation.

That's what Memorial Day is all about. There is plenty of sports news to cover today, some of which we have and some of which we will. There are plenty of barbeques for everyone to go to. And that's well and good. The soldiers who gave their lives for their country were fighting for our ability to enjoy discussion and sports and a warm summer day. That's all the more reason to be grateful for what they did.

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