Honor those who gave all

Even taking into account the many challenges facing our nation, we Americans enjoy liberties, security, peace and prosperity that is the envy of most other people in the world.

Those who guarantee all that to us, the men and women of our armed forces, willingly sacrifice liberties, security, peace and prosperity for themselves.

Sometimes they give their very lives for us. Today we honor those who made that ultimate sacrifice.

As Americans have done for generations, we as a nation pause on Memorial Day to reflect on the gift given over and over again to us for more than two centuries by those who died while in service to our country. It is a gift – willingness to lay down one’s life for fellow Americans – beyond repaying.

Merely in statistics, the number is enormous: One count of Americans in uniform killed during armed conflicts totals 1,319,943. The number could be much higher – and it does not include the many who have died in so-called “peacetime.”

No war officially involves the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard this Memorial Day. Yet while we enjoy peace and security, many of those who serve are in danger in covert missions, humanitarian work and training exercises.

Just within the past few weeks, six Marines were killed when their helicopter slammed into a mountain in Nepal. They were taking aid to victims of the massive earthquake in that country. Two more Marines perished when their aircraft plunged to earth and exploded during a training exercise in Hawaii.

Men and women who enlist in our all-volunteer military give up most of the blessings they ensure for us. Their freedom is restricted severely. A separate, often stricter, code of law governs them. Their security lasts only as long as their country does not need them for dangerous work. Many could earn far more in private-sector jobs. And for them, there never really is peace of the kind we take for granted.

Throughout our area this Memorial Day weekend, there have been and will be solemn ceremonies paying tribute to our honored dead. Nearly all will have been organized by veterans who understand service, honor and sacrifice far better than civilians.

It is appropriate in a way that our honored dead are saluted by their former comrades in arms.

It is not appropriate for us to take those who served and do so today, living or dead, for granted.

We owe them virtually every blessing from which we Americans benefit.

So today, whether you attend a Memorial Day ceremony or not, pause for a moment to reflect on that. If you can, thank a veteran.

And thank God for them. May God bless them and keep them.