Their watch has ended; they stand relieved!

Once again Memorial Day dawns. We’re going to hear a litany of moving tributes from an endless parade of public figures. This is as it should be, but for those of us who have actually served in combat and lived to remember it, every day is a Memorial Day; we NEVER forget.

My “war” was Viet Nam. It wasn’t even an officially declared war; which is why I put WAR in quotations. But this doesn’t diminish the fact that it lasted 20-years (1955-1975).

“Greetings: You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States,” read my personal invitation. Thousands of others, just in my region alone, received identical invites.

Tens of thousands of young men joined the war party in Viet Nam, and a little less than 50,000 didn’t come home alive. I was among the lucky ones who did come home.

Five of the names inscribed on the memorial in Washington, DC aren’t mere statistics to me. They were dear friends, comrades in arms. Two of them died during the same firefight, one of them died while cradled in my arms.

There’s no forgetting for me. I still have the blood-soaked combat fatigues from that day. And, while it now happens infrequently, I still—some 50-years later—bolt upright from a nightmare of cradling him in my arms as his eyes rolled to the back of his head.

We spend incalculable time in this country thanking God for His blessings on America. In all honesty, I don’t even know if there is a God, and if He is real, why He picked America.

Maybe God had something to do with it, but I simply don’t view our rights and freedom as gifts from anyone, mortal or immortal.

We possess both because a small group of patriots was able to convince freedom-seeking people to take them from King George. And we still have them because we’ve always possessed the national will and military might to defend them against all who would dare to deprive us of them.

THIS is why America has become a huge banquet of plenty surrounded by a world full of people who are starving to death. And, the day that we lose either, the will or the might, we’ll be joining them, God notwithstanding.

We possess the most powerful and dedicated military in the world. We’re deeply indebted to all currently serving as well as to all who have had their lives TAKEN from them throughout our multiplicity of wars to keep us strong and free.

And please note. I used the phrase, “lives TAKEN,” as opposed to “GIVEN their lives.”

I’m racing toward my mid-seventies, and I have yet to meet a member of the military, a civilian police officer, a paramedic, or anyone else charged with protecting others who’s standing at the ready for a golden opportunity to “GIVE” their lives.

I certainly know that I wasn’t. And I’m still not all that eager to die. I may LOSE my life defending my loved ones, but I’m not going to GIVE it; attackers are going to have to TAKE it, and at a serious risk of losing their own, I hasten to add!

As a proud and grateful nation, we OWE these people more than a symbolic flag for what they’ve done. Our debt to them can only be paid by NEVER FORGETTING what they did, and then PAYING it FORWARD.

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