As published in the Record Journal Sunday May 26, 2013
By Stephen Knight
Hundreds of millions of people across the planet and throughout the past two hundred years have either retained or been given the freedom that we take practically for granted because those who have worn the military uniform of the United States of America have been willing to put themselves in harm’s way to make that happen. Tomorrow, on Memorial Day, America will pause to contemplate that, in the course of those armed conflicts, so many have given their very lives in that cause. In Wallingford, as in town after town, city after city, throughout this nation, Taps will be played, and we will stand silently struggling to understand the depth of that sacrifice.
Our recognition of the importance of this day has seen a resurgence in recent decades, as the baby boom generation finally acknowledges that which previous and subsequent generations have always known: that those who have served and continue to serve in the U. S. military have earned a very special place in our national conscience. In our honoring of the fallen, we encompass our tributes to include those who may still hear our words as well as those whose ultimate sacrifice makes that impossible. That is the purpose of this column.
And, appropriately enough, our recognition of the men and women in uniform is now extended to the entire year as the country has seen an exponential growth of civilian organizations whose purpose is to ensure our military that we support them every day of the year. One such effort here in Wallingford is Holy Joe’s Café, an organization within the First Congregational Church of Wallingford that, in the past half dozen years or so, has provided more than a quarter million pounds of donated coffee to military chaplains serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Being a small part of the Holy Joe’s effort has afforded me the privilege of being part of a two-day event at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia and another full day tour of the U.S. Sub Base in Groton. Observations I came away with could fill this newspaper, but two stand out. The first one was that the depth and breadth of the weapons capabilities of the United States military is jaw-dropping. The best “diplomacy” that we might employ to deal with North Korea would be to invite their boy leader on a tour of US military installations so that he might get a look of what could be in store for him if he keeps up his provocations.
The second and way more important observation was to get a sense of the strength of character of the men and women in charge of this arsenal. In the forty-two hours I was in the company of US military personnel, nothing made more of an indelible impression on me than that. Regardless of rank, regardless of station, and regardless of from wherever in this diverse society they hailed, to a person they displayed three traits in common: a single-minded pride in and commitment to their military unit; a quiet, almost self-effacing reluctance to draw attention to themselves; and an overwhelming attitude that only their very best effort is acceptable.
So tomorrow we might consider that perhaps the best way we can honor the memory of those who lost their lives in service to their country is to support those who are presently serving. The most fitting memorial to every fallen soldier would be to make sure that those that are following in their footsteps know of our respect and concern. Every person wearing the uniform needs to hear, loudly and clearly, that even in their loneliest hour of duty, in the most remote places on earth, and on their most dangerous missions, their countrymen stand beside them without fail.
These incredible people need to hear it most on Memorial Day, but they need to hear from us every day as well.