Note from Norm: Memorial Day. Find A Name. Say the Name. Remember the Name
This July 26th will be the 15th anniversary of the passing of my dad, Norm Coleman, Sr.
At 82 years of age my Dad not only raised a large family and built a business that provided for us, but he also saved democracy for the world. A World War II veteran, my dad saw action at Normandy Beach on D-Day and received the Purple Heart at the Battle of the Bulge. Today, he lays at rest along with 400,000 other veterans and their dependents at Arlington National Cemetery.
Nearly 420,000 Americans lost their lives fighting alongside my dad in World War II and he, like millions of other American veterans, never forgot the sacrifice those who didn’t come home made to defend liberty and freedom.
Fifteen years after my dad left us there remain barely 240,000 veterans from World War II among us. I suspect each of them carries with them the lingering loss of their friends and fellow soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice so many years ago.
More than 1.3 million Americans gave their lives in combat since the beginning of our nation. From revolutionary war to Civil War to the Global War on Terror there’s likely not an American family that hasn’t been touched in some way from the loss of a family member in war.
How we honor their memory and sacrifice says something about us as a country and what we believe in as the most powerful and free nation on Earth.
The men and women who have fought and died in the name of the United States of America aren’t statistics or numbers or some abstract thought. They are the Moms and Dads, Sons and Daughters, Aunts and Uncles, Cousins, friends, neighbors, coworkers – fellow Americans – who gave their lives so we could live ours.
They, too, had hopes and dreams for the future. They left behind everything – gave everything – and what they sacrificed surely must be honored in some way beyond a day on the calendar.
The wars Americans have fought, and the ones who have died in them, were not of their choosing. The nation’s leaders made the decisions that put fighting men and women in harm’s way. Those decision, through whatever filter or lens one chooses to view them, should never dictate whether we pay tribute to the sacrifice of those who fought in those wars and died in them.
We can challenge the policy, doubt the purpose, wisdom, and decision of our nation’s leaders in choosing to send Americans into battle. But we should never find ourselves doubting the patriotism of those who carried the burden of fighting it or denigrate those who gave their life carrying out the orders of America’s leaders.
I wish I had more fully understood this during the tumultuous 1960’s. We had every right to challenge the policy and to protest the Vietnam war. But the men and women who answered the call to duty in Vietnam deserved a better homecoming and greater appreciation for the sacrifices they made. Then and now, our men in women in uniform deserve our respect and gratitude
Memorial Day represents an opportunity for all of us, in some way, big or small, to reflect on those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. In between the picnics, speeches, parades, and the Memorial Day sales, all of us should find a moment or two and consider the lives we have and the country we live in and the freedoms and liberties we enjoy.
It’s been said that “All gave some, and some gave all.” when referring to the sacrifice of those who have been called by the United States to serve in the defense of our nation and its allies.
I imagine it is impossible to find a resource that lists the names of every American who gave their life in the defense of their nation. But, it is possible, with a few clicks of an online search engine, to find the name of an American soldier who has given all for his or her country.
Find that name. Say that name. Remember that name.
As Memorial Day approaches I know that my thoughts will once again return to my dad and to the buddies he lost and left behind on the fields and beaches of Europe so many decades ago. I will reflect on the sacrifices they made so that my children and their children can live in the greatest nation on Earth.
And most importantly of all, I will do my best to live the words of President John F. Kennedy:
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”