I was fortunate to have spent 30 years working at our local newspaper where I was given the opportunity to write this column and, in time, also for special sections.

It wasn’t just another assignment to hurry and write. It was emotional, eye-opening and by far the most rewarding assignment I’d ever had. During the planning process of bringing The Wall That Heals to our area, it was determined the newspaper would produce a special section. I will be forever grateful I was asked to write stories about at a time in history I knew very little about.

Even though my brother served in Vietnam, I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t a topic I had thought much about. These folks, who were willing to let me tell their stories, will forever be a special memory of the years working at the newspaper. People who had served, as well as those who mourned a loved one who never came home, recalled a time in their life in which their wounds will never heal.

Vietnam veterans who visited The Wall during this four-day event received a medal or lapel pin. It read, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans.” For those who were lucky enough to return home its unfortunate the welcome home banners didn’t get put up when they were needed the most. I can’t imagine the emotions our military men and women felt returning back to their homeland, after spending time in a foreign land, in the worst possible conditions, and not being welcomed home or thanked for their services. Shame on us.

Troops are due to come home from the longest war in history soon and I hope they are welcomed with open arms, lots of thanks and loads of help. Our veterans, in my opinion, are often overlooked, neglected and are not receiving the gratitude they are due.

Our young men and women voluntarily choose to dedicate their lives in the pursuit of our freedom. They should be applauded as they willingly step up and say, I believe, so much in what America stands for, I’m willing to die for it. Although Memorial Day actually began as a time to give gratitude to those who died while serving in our nations’ military, it’s also a day to reflect on the living, who are protecting us at this very moment.

My grandkids tell me they are saying the pledge of allegiance at school, thank goodness. If we don’t teach our children to respect the flag, our country, our freedom, we will be a country which has lost the very foundation it was built on.

Thank you to the men and women who make the completion of the pledge of allegiance possible: with liberty and justice for all. Liberty, as we live each day without the fear a battle will be fought in our own back yard. Justice, as our military ensures we sleep at night without the sounds of fear and destruction.  

Celebrate Memorial Day with your families, but please also celebrate those who have lost their lives protecting ours.

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