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Published May 31 2010

Forum editorial: Take time to honor the fallen

The admonitions are the same every Memorial Day weekend: It’s not just the start of the summer recreation season. It’s not just another long weekend at the lake or for puttering in the yard.

It’s more important. Indeed, Memorial Day is one of the most profound national observances on the calendar.

Americans understand that. But a new reality has changed the relationship between most Americans and the men and women who serve in uniform. Oh sure, we honor our soldiers, sailors and Marines. Today, ceremonies across the land will remember those who gave their lives in America’s many wars to preserve freedom and the American way of life. Memories will be deep; tears will flow; appropriate words will be spoken by sincere men and women.

But changes in the ways America fights wars have resulted in a subtle disconnection between the military and the rest of society. Fewer and fewer families have a direct connection to the uniformed military because there are fewer and fewer men and women in uniform. Even among our elected representatives, there are fewer than ever who served in the military.

A technologically advanced military fights wars far differently today than was the routine in the Vietnam era and before. Casualties, while as devastating as ever to the families of the lost, do not – and will not – reach the levels experienced in Vietnam, Korea and World War II. That’s a grand testament to the skill and dedication of military personnel. Protecting the soldiers in harm’s way is a very good thing.

But make no mistake about it: Much of the nation, while voicing strong support for our troops at war, has not and will not experience the trauma of losing a loved one in war. One result is disconnection from the sacrifice military people and their families deal with every day as hot wars continue in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That being said, we must never forget the men and women who gave their lives so Americans can enjoy a summer weekend with family and friends. The Memorial Day admonition remains valid: Take time today to pause, to remember, to reflect on the freedoms and way of life that have been protected and preserved by the sacrifice of countless thousands of men and women in uniform. Before you head to the lake or fire up the backyard barbecue, go to a Memorial Day ceremony and honor the fallen.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.