Today is Memorial Day.  All week-end long, people have been celebrating a three-day holiday, going to the beach, or the racetrack or just going to sales and parties. It’s currently after noon, so I just raised the American flag from halfmast to full in accordance to protocol. The flag is where it belongs, but so are my thoughts still on those I knew who gave their lives in the performance of their duties, as well as the families left behind. During the last few days, I’ve cringed when someone said Happy Memorial Day.

This morning, there was an article that said only 55% of Americans knew the significance of Memorial Day. That’s sad enough, but it went on to say the majority of those who did know were the older people. Unless things change, in 20 to 30 years, few will know the meaning.

I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at 17 years old, after graduating high school. I served 25 years as a US Marine (from ’68 to ’93) with service in Vietnam, Beirut and Desert Storm. I knew way too many heroes who lost their lives in far off places fighting for our freedoms at home. When I visit the Vietnam Wall, I see the names etched in the black granite, but also see the faces of some of my friends who died in the mountains and rice paddies there. At Camp Lejuene, at the Beirut Memorial, I remember the friend that I talked into going to Marine OCS in Quantico, Va. He excelled in training and got his choice of assignments. He chose to go to Beirut. I escorted him back to his final resting place. I still see their faces. They haven’t aged, though I have. There’s a twinge of “why them and not me”. “There but by the Grace of God” just doesn’t sound right to me.

There’s a quote by an unknown author that goes, “For those who have fought for it, Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know”. Not only is there the flavor, but also the smell, the sound and raw memories.

Over 1.2 million American lives have been lost by heroes who have sacrificed those lives for Freedom. Freedom isn’t free; it was bought by American blood and lives. Their legacy needs to be passed on to the next generation, then the one after that, forever. Remember them as you go about your festivities. I will, as I strive to be an American worth their sacrifice.