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As I See It

Memorial Day brings thoughts of summer, service, sacrifice

Today is Memorial Day, and most folks are enjoying a holiday from work. I fear that many of us won’t give much thought to the real significance of this day. It’s become just a day off to commemorate the unofficial, but generally accepted, beginning of summer. Barbecue grills are filling neighborhoods with those delicious smells of outdoor cooking with hot dogs, hamburgers and other treats so tasty, yet so bad for the old health.
Yum, yum.

This Memorial Day is likely to be a little more somber than most since thousands of Mississippi soldiers are away from home fighting the war on terrorism in Iraq. Untold thousands of family and friends are anxious for this year to end so our troops can come home. Anytime our nation is at war and American troops are in danger we feel a measure of anxiety, but with so many soldiers from Mississippi in the fight, the level of concern is much, much higher.

The freedom we enjoy here in America has been purchased by the sacrifice of millions of soldiers. We should never take our freedom for granted. It’s like a fine diamond, to be admired and appreciated every day. This may sound like a sermon and it is; however, since I’m a Army veteran, I’m qualified to preach.

Many people have said that it’s a sin to activate our National Guard troops and send them into the war. After all, they just signed up for some weekend excitement and spending money. They never expected to be plucked out of their daily routines and have their lives disrupted for a year or more of active duty.

Covering the costs

Though there is some validity in this argument, I don’t entirely agree. After all, I was plucked out of my daily routine and drafted into the Army for two years against my will to fight an unpopular war that we were already losing when I got there. It was frustrating to see my classmates getting good jobs and buying new cars while I eked out an existence on less than $120 a month with a baby on the way.

I’m not just saying that if it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for them. That would be sour grapes and that’s not my point. What I am saying is that national service of some type is good for everybody and possibly should be required before youngsters settle into a comfortable life with the white picket fence. Freedom had a price in 1776, in 1917, in 1941, in 1965, in 1991 and there’s still a cost today.

Obviously, there are thousands, perhaps millions, of people who are willing to give their lives to destroy ours. As long as there are those who hate our freedom so much that they spend every waking moment plotting ways to bring America down, we will always have to remain on our guard.

Vested interest

If every able-bodied citizen had given a year or two of national service at nominal pay, more folks would understand the importance of celebrating our patriotic holidays, like Memorial Day. People would leap to their feet when the American flag is passing in review because they would have more ownership in that flag and everything it stands for. I would venture to say that our pathetic voter turnout statistics would be much different if all those qualified voters had given something back to the country that has given us all so much.

So, what about Memorial Day? It’s not asking too much for everyone just to pause a moment and be thankful to those who have given, and continue to give, so much of themselves for our country. Clearly, and unequivocally, this is the greatest nation ever conceived by mankind, and it’s our privilege to live here and enjoy the blessings that are free to us, but have cost others their everything.

Now that my military service is just a faded memory and my baby didn’t starve to death, I’m glad I served my country even though at the time I didn’t want to. And, though my war time service was mostly limited to office chores, you can safely bet that I’m the first one out of my chair when Old Glory is parading by. This is my country, I’ve paid my dues and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Supporting the troops

Please be thoughtful of our men and women who are fighting in Iraq. Let their families know how much you appreciate their sacrifice. Your support and encouragement will mean a lot. A number of organizations across our state have programs that are supporting our soldiers with everything from telephone calling cards to cosmetics and personal items. And, just last week, the Legislature passed a bill creating a fund to help military families who face unexpected expenses because of the service of a family member. Get out your checkbook and be generous. Give our troops a hand and you’ll know the satisfaction of giving something back.

And, above all, let’s be ready to welcome them home when their tour is finished. They’re all heroes and deserve our gratitude for the sacrifice they’ve made to keep America strong and free.

Thought for the Moment

My concept of freedom. The value of a thing sometimes does not lie in what one gains from it, but in what one pays for it — what it costs us. — Friedrich Neitzsche, Twilight of the Idols, “Skirmishes of an Untimely Man,” 1889

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.


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