Readers responded to our question about who or what they will be thinking about on Memorial Day.
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Can you provide the last names of the following: Britney ...? Brad ...? Paris ...? Angelina ...?
How about these: Lt. Michael ...; Cpl. Jason ...; Master-At-Arms Second Class Michael ...; Sgt. First Class Paul ...
Most Americans can accurately finish the first set, but are clueless about the second. We know plenty about whiny, self-indulgent denizens of Hollywood, but little of people who put country, honor, duty ahead of everything - even their lives.
Michael Murphy, Jason Dunham, Michael Monsoor and Paul Smith were each awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. Each gave his life so that we can feel safe enough to sit around and wonder if Lindsay Lohan will ever straighten herself out.
Charles M. Jones
During World War II, I was in the Army Air Corps. My best friend was in the infantry. At the age of 18 he was killed in action. After the war, his body was returned to this country. During his formal burial I was one of his pallbearers. It was one of the most heart-rending episodes of my life. His mother fell across the casket and cried, "My baby, my baby." My thought was, "Why not me, Al, instead of you?" Every Memorial Day those same thoughts go through my mind.
Three people I think about are my great uncle, Arthur Levi, a World War I veteran; my father, Seymour Burrows, an artillery captain in World War II; and my friend Stewart Peck, who perished in Vietnam while I was in college.
My uncle was a good-humored self-effacing man. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he had only six months to live, he went on for 10 more years, only six months short of age 100.
After the war, my father spent his life negotiating labor contracts. He represented the management side, but always looked for ways to resolve conflicts peacefully, in ways that gave both sides a win.
Peck always pitched in to help with campus community projects. He could have claimed a student deferment, but refused. He was a good and moral person.
I miss them all.
Michael C. Whisted
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When I put out my flags and schedule holiday plans, I think of two individuals who lost their lives fighting for the rest of us: Sgt. First Class Randall Shughart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon. They were the Delta team snipers who left the safety of their helicopter and faced certain death while trying to rescue their comrades in Somalia in 1993. They requested permission to go and were twice denied. They persisted and were killed when they were overrun by Somalia militia. What courage.
Living in a small town, I watch the parade. Each time, I think about our country, its militarism, and the enormous suffering that results from our actions, which have caused America's reputation to be tarnished overseas. While we honor our fallen soldiers, I remember our occupying Nicaragua for years, installing the brutal shah of Iran, toppling democratically elected leaders in this hemisphere, CIA coups, and countless other "adventures." We should be ashamed, not proud, of how we have intervened in the internal affairs of other countries.
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This month, Israel celebrated its 60th birthday, and while listening to some of the coverage, I heard Mark Levin, father of Michael, the soldier killed two years ago, compare Remembrance Day in Israel to Memorial Day. He said how united and solemn everyone was there, unlike our holiday, which is used for entertainment, rather than reflection. These impressive words will be on my mind this year.
Anthony J. Frascino
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My thoughts always turn to my father, Joseph, and my two uncles, Dominic and Louis, who all served valiantly during World War II. I was a history buff since childhood and inquisitive about my relatives' experiences. But these men were the strong, silent type. They smiled at me, when I would ask, and changed the subject. When I scoured the rest of the family for answers, they told me the vets never mentioned their wartime experiences and that I was not to hound them about it.
As a child, I thought war was exciting, and if I were a warrior and survived, I would tell everyone about my bravery. Now I know war is hell and these courageous men saw horrors most of us can only dream about in our worst nightmares. I salute my relatives and their silent heroism.