Off the Press

May 22, 2012

By Kathleen R. Merrill

Veterans deserve our thanks, for everything

Kathleen R. Merrill Press managing editor

Memorial Day. What does it mean to you?

It’s usually a fun day for me, but it’s also bittersweet, and there is always a solemn time of remembrance.

See, I’ve always had a heart for the men and women who have served our country. Maybe that comes from my father, who served in Vietnam in the United States Navy. (He’s an awesome man and my personal hero.) Maybe it comes from my own U.S. Army service and the pride that was instilled in me.

I can’t help but get teary when I hear the national anthem, no matter the location or occasion. I love our flag and all it stands for, and I love the men and women who have signed up and gone on duty for this country, to keep all of our various freedoms that make ours a country like no other.

My heart aches for the men and women of all ages who have gone off to war, and not returned home. And for the ones who have come back, but no longer alive, who have given the ultimate sacrifice for all of the blessings we have in our everyday lives.

These are the reasons I started Lest We Forget, our annual section to honor veterans of our community. These men and women might have once lived here or live here now. They might have lived here all of their lives or they might have just recently moved here. They might still be living or they might no longer be with us. All of them deserve our thanks and our honor and our gratitude for the lives that many people just breeze through and take for granted.

I am deeply moved by the stories I hear each year regarding this project. (See Pages C1-6.)

My favorite is one I witnessed — a man came to Hillside Cemetery last Memorial Day to put flowers on the grave of one of the 19 service members who gave their lives during wartime and who are listed on the monument in our city that recognizes them. He had seen the man’s name in the Lest We Forget section.

“I didn’t think he probably had any family left and I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t forgotten,” he said.

That was a truly beautiful moment for me.

I hear from people throughout the year thanking us for remembering their current and former family members and friends. People bring us photos — some of them decades old, all of them treasured heirlooms — every year and leave them in our care, sometimes for months, trusting us to return them. I try to return photos in person when people come to retrieve them. I love to shake the hands of veterans and thank them for their service. Many tell me no one has ever said that to them. What a shame.

I am pleased to be able to honor your fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, brothers and sons, sisters and daughters, neighbors and friends.

If you get to choose your church, your schools, your homes, your cars, your careers, your meals — your anything at all that isn’t pushed upon you or demanded by your government  — you should thank a veteran. For those are the people who made your choices possible.

And to all veterans, I salute you. Thank you for your service.

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