Remembering those who paid the high price for freedom
Memorial Day is the most solemn day of recognition and remembrance we as a nation offer in memory of those who are no longer with us — this is the day we remember all of our war dead of the past 237 years and honor their service and sacrifice.
The men and women we honor today gave all for a purpose much larger than self. They dared and gave all for our safety, security and freedom.
The life we as Americans enjoy was not bought or sustained cheaply. From the very beginning, it was paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of patriots. Our security is still purchased the same way — young men and women voluntarily placing themselves at our service, doing exactly what we ask of them and often much more. The past decade has shown the willingness of a generation to step up when called and join a military at war fully knowing they would be sent into harm’s way.
Any soldier, sailor, airmen, marine or coast guardsman who enlisted or sought a commission in our Armed Forces after Sept. 11, 2001, was aware of what was being asked of them, the challenges, the personal sacrifices and the danger. Knowing this they still committed to serving their country, just as the many generations before them out on a uniform and served in times of peril.
Many of those who served are no longer with us. The list of casualties of our nation’s conflicts is long and on Memorial Day we remember each and every one of them.
Although centuries have passed and all we have is a historical perspective, we acknowledge the sacrifice of those who won our independence and made real the idea of America and set the stage for everything that has come to pass. The same is true of the generations of service members that followed: the War of 1812, Civil War and World War I, as well as many others, are now too part of the history we remember on days such as these.
What is fresher in our minds and the minds of those who served is the human cost of World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. Amongst these large scale conflicts are many smaller conflicts in the course of our history where our military men and women have fought and died for our country. Hundreds of thousands of our best served us with everything they had, up to and including their very lives.
Memorial Day is an important part of remembering, never forgetting, why we are where we are and why we have what we have. The cost of what we hold dear is immeasurable. The prize of freedom was won by those who fought for it, fought to sustain it and fought to spread it throughout the world. It was paid for with the sacrifice of men and women who willingly gave of themselves so that others could live free.
John A. Scocos is the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. He is an Iraq War veteran.