Few words remind us of the sacrifices of our military than the words “Lest We Forget.”
Visitors to the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs website will find the phrase in a line of script that leads them to a list of 108 names, each belonging to a Kentucky military veteran who died in modern military conflict in Iraq or Afghanistan as of May 10, 2012. Reading the names of these men and women connects us to them as individuals and to the mission for which they gave their lives: freedom from tyranny and terrorism.
This Memorial Day, we remember the ultimate price these Kentuckians and more than 6,300 other brave American troops have paid since the War on Terror was proclaimed over 10 years ago.
Thoughts of these brave men and women, and the more than 44,000 Americans wounded in the conflicts, should remain with us long after Monday’s picnics and cookouts. We should, in fact, remember and honor these troops daily for protecting us—all the while continuing to pray for those military personnel who are still in hotbeds of conflict overseas.
It is easy to take the sacrifice of our troops for granted in America where our fear of terrorism has sunk far since the tragedies of September 11, 2001. Distance from the horrors of 10 1/2 years ago and our superficial knowledge of the horrors our troops have faced, and continue to face, in the Middle East have made us so comfortable we have forgotten why we feel so safe.
We want the advantages of a strong defense but, like a spoiled child, we don’t say “thank you”—at least, not enough.
It is my hope that this Memorial Day each of us says thank you. We need to show respect for today’s troops and those who have gone before and honor their sacrifices. For without them, the America we know and love would not be the symbol of freedom it is today.
Consider the sage advice of President George Washington who once wrote, “The willingness of future generations to serve in our military will be directly dependent upon how we have treated those who have served in the past.”
Giving our veterans the thanks they deserve will indeed help us recruit the best and brightest individuals to military service. With their abilities, we will be better equipped to avoid tragedies like September 11 in the future.
But we must first remind ourselves that Memorial Day is more than official swimming pool openings and burgers on the grill and a day at the movies to celebrate the start of summer. We must remember that what has become a day of good times is also meant to be a day of somber reflection.
By balancing the fun and the solemnity, our gratitude will become obvious to those who are so deserving of it.
So each Memorial Day, please set aside time to remember what our troops have done for us and share those memories with younger generations to give them a greater appreciation for our military. They might even begin to think about what life would have been like without these heroes.
To all of America’s military, I say thank you for serving and being the backbone of our nation, “Lest we forget.”
I will continue with coverage of the 2012 Regular Session in next week’s article. Thanks, and have a great week ahead.