If you’re like most Americans, you’re likely spending the next few days celebrating the first full holiday weekend of the summer. Perhaps now that school is out, you’re taking a family vacation.
Or maybe you’re staying at home, happy to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We hope you enjoy the holiday.
But hopefully, at some point during the next few days you’ll take a minute to remember why we have this time off. The Memorial Day weekend may be a time to get summer started, but the holiday was bought and paid for with the lives of those who died in the service of our country.
Memorial Day at its heart is about paying tribute to those who have given their lives in our nation’s defense over the past 200 plus years, from Lexington and Gettsyburg to Iwo Jima and Normandy, from the frozen ridges of Korea to the steamy jungles of Vietnam, the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts if Iraq.
This is no small number, mind you. More than 2.5 million Americans have died or been wounded as a result of combat in those wars and others.
Yet it is sometimes lamented in our day and time that — in this day of an all-volunteer military — those who fight our wars are increasingly removed from most of the population. That means fewer of us can appreciate what it means to lose a son, or daughter, or brother, or father, or mother. It also can mean that we as a country have “less skin in the game,” making us a nation much more willing to go to war than we ought to be.
That’s not true in our community. The proximity of Fort Stewart and the large number of military families we have in our midst, both active and retired, are a daily reminder of the dangers faced and courage shown by U.S. troops.
The 2011 loss of Staff Sgt. Jeremy Katzenberger, a Hunter Army Airfield Ranger who called Richmond Hill home, was just the most recent reminder that there is still a war being fought. Katzenberger was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan.
In 2009, Marine Capt. Matthew Freeman, a Richmond Hill High School graduate, and Army Ranger Staff Sgt. Jason Dahlke, a Richmond Hill resident, were killed in Afghanistan within weeks of one another.
And in 2005, Marine Staff Sgt. Joel Dameron, a Bryan County High School graduate from Ellabell, was killed in Iraq during combat operations.
Their sacrifices, and those of their comrades in arms, will not be in vain so long as they are remembered — and so long as we understand that the freedoms we enjoy come at a great cost.
Take a second to remember that this weekend.