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Memorial Day & this great gift called ‘America’

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POSTED May 31, 2010 2:49 a.m.
It’s Memorial Day. To most of us, it signals the start of summer or simply made it possible to have a three-day weekend to enjoy family, shopping or travel.

Maybe on Saturday you fished in the Delta, shopped for clothes, or simply went out for dinner. Perhaps on Sunday you worshipped at a church of your choice. Today maybe you have relaxing, a home improvement project or yard work on your to do list.

Probably the one thing most of us aren’t doing is reflecting upon why we have Memorial Day.

We take everything secured by the blood and lives of men and women alike from the dawn of the republic 234 years ago to those who may lose their life before the sun sets today fighting the Global War on Terror for granted.

Freedom isn’t free.

There’s a high price to pay.

It is safe to say those who abhor war the most aren’t those we once referred to as peaceniks or pacifists. The most anti-war people you’ll ever meet have worn the uniform of this country in battle. They know firsthand the horrors and the terrible price that is paid

Soldiers don’t want to die. They don’t want to see their comrades killed and maimed.

They do understand, though, that someone must stand up to tyranny and preserve our liberties.

Without soldiers - and bloodshed - there would never have been an America. Kings and tyrants don’t treat people as humans that have the right to shape their own destiny. Hitler and the Axis would have succeeded in bringing much - if not all of the world - under the control of evil that created governments that justified systemically trying to exterminate an entire race or any person who didn’t meet their standard of being a human being

Memorial Day is it’s more than simply honoring those who died wearing our country’s uniform. It’s a day we can reflect on the great sacrifice thousands have made over the past 234 years so we can live in a land where we are free to raise our families, free to shop where we choose, free to travel, free to pursue recreational activities, free to worship as we choose and free to essentially do what we want as long as it does not tread on the rights of others.

Friends and family of the five men who have come to represent Manteca’s war sacrifices - Hope McFall (World War I), Kenneth Grisham (World War II), Gordon Thomas (Korean War), Brock Elliott (Vietnam War), and Charles Palmer II (The Global War on Terror) -  know the price all too well. Sixty-three men who called Manteca home died at war. The five listed happened to be the first to die in each war.

There are, of course, thousands of others who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom and America’s embracing the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness with the gusto most of us will experience this weekend.

We need to all take a moment today to reflect on what it costs to be a free nation.

There are various ways we can do this.

One is attending the Memorial Day ceremonies at 10 a.m. at East Union Cemetery, Louise Avenue and Union Road.

Another way is to proudly display Old Glory in honor of those who died to keep the flickering candle of freedom alive.

You can also line Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca between Library Park and Manteca High for the 11 a.m. Memorial Day parade to honor those still living who carry the memories of comrades who spilled their blood and gave their lives so we can all be free.

But perhaps the most important gesture we can all make is to reflect for a few minutes on what made it possible for this nation to prosper and thrive under democratic principles and individual freedoms too many of us take for granted. The concepts of liberty, freedom, and democracy have been around for more than a millennium. It took the blood of men and women, though, over the past several centuries to finally make those three concepts a universal reality at least for Americans.

And when you finish reflecting, share your thoughts with a youngster so they can learn to value and treasure this great gift called America that men like Hope McFall, Kenneth Grisham, Gordon Thomas, Brock Elliott, and Charles Palmer II protected with their lives.

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