Memorial Day – reflecting on the cost

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The markers for Matthew Commons and Jason Cunningham in Arlington National Cemetery.  They were killed in 2002 in Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda

Today is Memorial Day. As my grieving veterans remind me, it is not military appreciation day, it is not thank a veteran day, and it is not the official kick off summer.

Today is the one day on the calendar where we are meant to reflect on what it coststo be an American and to be free.

Costs means lives lost. It means parents never seeing their child again, husbands and wives never embracing their spouse again, children who will live without their father or mother. And while all human’s lives are eventually lost for myriad predictable and unpredictable reasons, most human lives are not lost preserving American’s freedoms.

More than 1.3 million lives have been lost in defense of our country and our freedoms.

We live in a representative democratic republic which means our government is formed by the people and their collective decisions on self-government are made through their elected representatives. In this type of government, here is who makes the decisions about where our American troops are sent to fight.

To be sure that is:

• The President

• And our Senators and Congress men and women

But equally as responsible for determining whether or not we will risk lives are all of those who elect our President, Senators and Congress men and women. That includes:

The 18 year old and the 80 year old, the history scholar, the businessman who is being harmed by a regulation, the mother of a new private in the army, the person who was inspired enough to work on an elected officials campaign, those who can not tell you who the president of their country is, the director of a non-profit helping to protect defenseless children, those who have read the Constitution and those who have not, those who have served in our military, those who have served in the peace corps, teachers, school board members, and those who don’t like politics and so don’t register to vote.

Each of these individuals is equally responsible for the decisions made about where our U.S. troops are sent to fight because they each choose to vote or not to vote and for whom. Those collective decisions are how we govern this country and how we make decisions.

WE. Not them. WE.

In a republic, a constitution or charter protects certain inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the government.

On Memorial Day, we need to reflect on the United States Constitution.  This foundational document informs how we have agreed to govern ourselves in the United States of America.  Enshrined in it is our Bill of Rights which explicitly states our individual freedoms that we collectively as Americans make decisions to spend lives to defend and keep.

Freedom of Religion, Speech, and the Press, The Right to Bear Arms, The Housing of Soldiers, Protection from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures, Protection of Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property, Rights of Accused Persons in Criminal Cases, Rights in Civil Cases, Excessive Bail, Fines, and Punishments Forbidden, Other Rights Kept by the People, Undelegated Powers Kept by the States and the People.

On Memorial Day, there are specific fallen names which remind me of the importance of participating in our democracy and of remaining grateful.   Here are the names of  American lives that were spent in defense of our country and our rights:

Killed on March 2nd 2002 on Takur Ghar “Robert’s Ridge” Afghanistan

• PO1 Neil C. Roberts, 32

• TSgt John A. Chapman, 37

• SrA Jason D. Cunningham, 27

• CPL Matthew A. Commons, 21

SGT Bradley S. Crose, 22

SPC Marc A. Anderson, 30

• SGT Phillip Svitak, 31

Killed In Ramadi, Iraq

2004

Sgt. Christopher Ramirez, 34

2005

1st Lt. Mark H. Dooley, 27

2006

Sgt. Joshua Allen Johnson, 24

Killed near Naray, Afghanistan June 21st 2006

• Staff Sgt. Jared Monti, 30

• Staff Sgt. Heathe Craig, 28

• Sergeant Patrick Lybert, 28

• Pfc. Brian J. Bradbury, 22

Killed near Kamdesh, Afghanistan November 26, 2006

Take a moment today to think of their families and all whom they left behind.  Take another moment to reflect on how each of us can work to better uphold our individual responsibilities as Americans.

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