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It has been a long, cold, snowy winter and this is the official start of the summer vacation season, although summer doesn’t officially start for three more weeks.
This was a great weekend to go hiking, camping, fishing, golfing, boating or darned near anything that could be done outside. Sure, we had a few afternoon raindrops, but that is a part of the Colorado summer anyway.
It was a wonderful weekend to cook out, throw some hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, make that wonderful potato salad and wind up the evening with a marshmallow roast, just as we used to do when we were much younger.
It is also nice to have a three-day weekend for those who are so fortunate. An extra day of relaxing and fun never hurt anyone, so it just makes for a pretty good overall day at the beginning of summer.
But did you realize that since 1775, a year before our country finally gained its independence, 1.2 million Americans have died fighting for America’s freedom—that according to the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Think about that number.
That is 1,200,000 people who died while fighting for our independence and our freedom to live as Americans and to be able to enjoy being the most free country on the face of this earth.
Some people get excited about the Civil War; some don’t. But that battle, which pitted brother against brother and brother against father, was the bloodiest battle in the known history of this earth, when 364,511 Union soldiers and 134,821 Confederate soldiers lost their lives, not to mention those who lost their lives in non-direct result of the war.
World War I saw 53,482 Americans lose their lives in battle.
World War II saw 291,557 lose their lives in battle.
The Korean War saw 33,739 losses and Vietnam saw 47,434 losses.
Let’s not forget Panama, the two gulf wars, the battle at Granada—the numbers keep mounting.
With 1.2 million Americans lost to battle, it is easy to say we owe our past, present and future to those willing to put their lives on the line.
I would doubt if there is an American alive today who isn’t in the family line of someone who lost their life defending the U.S. in some war. For some, it may have been a grandfather or a great uncle or an even more-distant family tie.
For others, it may have been a brother, a sister, a father or a close cousin who lost their life in service to America.
It is very easy to say that “we shall never forget,” but, really, unless it has touched many of us fairly closely, it is easy to dismiss Memorial Day as “just another of those Mondays we get off from work.”
It is so much more.
In the worldly scheme of things, it is so much more.
The United States is the most powerful nation on this earth. Others may not like us, others may make fun of our politics and sometimes shake their heads at what we do and how we do things. But no one—not even the once-mighty Soviet Union, now reduced to Russia and the other satellite states—can deny that the United States is in the driver’s seat.
Aunts, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, sons, daughters have all been lost serving our nation, and please remember that these victims of war all leave their own mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles and cousins with a deep feeling of loss.
Yes, it is true. These people aren’t coming home. We won’t see them again. That mother won’t be able to hug her baby boy ever again. That young woman will never make the walk up the aisle because her fiance is coming home in a box.
That man who is across the ocean fighting for American freedom won’t come home to see his baby child because of that land mine. Those three paratroopers won’t get home to see their sisters after the war because enemy fire blew that chopper out of the air.
Each and every one of those 1.2 million Americans was a real person, not just a number. A live creature with desires, plans for the future, a family awaiting them and a bundle of hopes for the future and just what could be.
But, it didn’t happen.
And that is why we must never forget what these men and women—going back 12 generations—mean to us and to our future. They had their lives and their dreams so that we can enjoy the future we envision and treasure so much.
One by one, these losses seem lesser significant, but they aren’t. It took all of these 1.2 million Americans for us to be where we are now and to have those hopes still that the future will be everything we can dream it to be.
Thank you to all of the men and women who have served our country. We owe you a lot. But to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for the future of our great nation and so our dreams can still come true, God bless you.
And may we never, ever forget what we owe you.
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The Meeker High School Class of 2016 will be graduated into the real world on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the MHS auditorium.
The 37 students who are expected to receive their diplomas will begin a long trek whichever route they take—be it to continue on to college, to work in the family business, to go to work for someone else, to take a year off for fun and travel or to head into the military.
The best of luck to you in whichever direction you go. And whichever direction it is you choose, be the best that you can be and continue to challenge yourself. That is the key to a happy and fulfilling life.
Congratulations to the MHS Class of 2016. Remember that the word “commencement” means “beginning,” and it can be a tough but rewarding road ahead. Stay the course!