It was then I looked at him and his memory was so strong I could almost see it in his eyes. News reports and history lessons to me, but to him they are memories. He changed my textbook awareness of Normandy from facts to an emotion. The invasion affected him. He affected me.
He is old now and perhaps not quite as sharp mentally as he was once.
He spoke with such earnestness he made me feel as though I was there with him as my proxy. Had he and countless others like him in that and other wars not been there the rest of us would not be blessed to enjoy our freedom.
Daily we pass people to whom Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait and other theaters are more than news reports. All have memories of their own self-denied heroism. To them, every day is a Memorial Day. Because of them, every day should be a Memorial Day for all of us. A day in which we resolve to live will as an expression of gratitude for what they have done for us.
The following cold statistics can’t possibly convey the sacrifices of some of our nation’s finest, much less the agony of their families and loved ones. Consider:
French and Indian War: 2,789;
War of 1812: 2,260;
Revolutionary War: 25,324;
Civil War: 498,334;
Spanish American War: 2,446;
World War I: 116,710;
World War II: 407,376;
Korean War: 54,546;
Vietnam War: 58,098;
Persian Gulf War: 146;
Iraqi War: 4,486;
War in Afghanistan: 2,227 and counting.
A pseudonym for these brave souls is “patriot.” In this era when patriotism is downplayed, a better understanding of what it is must be rejuvenated. Patriotism involves loving one’s native land: its history, traditions, language, natural features, admirable institutions, freedom, the individual’s right to achieve, moral attributes, virtues, and spiritual values. In general, its ethos. Such respect is a way of showing appreciation for those whose sacrifices have made our land free.
I walked away from that little man in Montana last week with a sense of “I was there.” It spawned an attitude of gratitude for my proxy and millions like him who were there when the battle lines were drawn in our many wars.
They and their predecessors who paid the ultimate price for their country deserve a day of memorial. Thank a veteran today.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist. Church.