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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Don't lose sight of who we remember

By now, most everyone is likely enjoying their three-day holiday weekend - the unofficial start of summer.
I’m sure there are a lot of plans for family get-togethers, picnics, barbecues, trips Up North, attending the Highland Festival, and of course watching the Red Wings play for the Stanley Cup, the Pistons in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, and Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, among assorted other celebrations.
Those are all great ways to spend some time off work and I will probably be doing some of the same things.
But I’m wondering just how many of us will take some time out of our busy schedules to think about why we have the opportunity to enjoy an extended weekend.
Monday is Memorial Day. Hopefully, we all know what that represents. It’s a day to honor those military veterans who paid the ultimate price for their country. They died so that we can continue living in a free nation.
Sure we can complain about the economy going into the crapper, the high cost of fuel, food and health care; the lack of jobs, illegal immigrants, Social Security, our government leaders, or whatever else is on our minds (just read Sound Off).
But hey, at least we have the right to complain about almost anything we want without fear that we will be imprisoned, tortured or shot for our views.
We have that right not because of the Declaration of Independence, but because generations of servicemen have fought and died to ensure the freedoms outlined in that great document were never taken away from us by some egomaniac foreign dictator who wanted to rule the world.
For all of its shortcomings, there still is no better place to live than the Good Old USA.
Sometimes it seems we take the things we have for granted and we worry too much about what we don’t have.
I’ve spoken to numerous World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans over the years. Many don’t like to talk about what they experienced without some prodding.
After hearing their stories I can’t imagine what it was like having bombs and mortars exploding around you, being shot at, watching your friends die and wondering if you will be next.
Those of us who have never been through it will never be able to comprehend the true horror.
I didn’t have to serve in the armed forces much less fight in a war. No, I wasn’t a Draft Dodger or sneak off to Canada to avoid military service.
I was a teenager during the Vietnam era and although I was in college at 18 there were no more deferments for that. I was subject to the draft just like everyone else.
At that time they had initiated a “draft lottery” according to your birthday. Your draft status was subject to the whim of the draw. The lower your number the better chance you had of being drafted. If I recall, my number was 32.
Not good. I was sure I would be getting one of those letters that began with “Greetings.”
Actually the first letter I receive told me I had to catch the bus in Alma for a trip to Detroit for my physical.
But then I got another notification that said it had been canceled and to await further instructions. I waited and waited. Finally I heard - Nixon had ended the draft and I was no longer subject to induction. Whew.
I was certainly happy but there were times I felt some guilt. I had friends and relatives in the military and fighting in Vietnam. Fortunately the war ended a short time later.
Maybe that’s why I feel even stronger about the sacrifices our servicemen made for their country. I never had to put my life on the line but they did.
Unfortunately, American soldiers are still dying overseas. That’s why it’s time to bring them home. Why do we feel the need to protect the Iraqis and those in other Middle Eastern nations from themselves?
I’m a firm supporter of our troops but no more dads, sons, brothers or nephews should have to die there.
This Memorial Day take some time to honor those who have helped make this the greatest nation on earth. Remember the dead and recognize the living. Attend one of the local parades or holiday observances or just pause for a moment to say a prayer and give thanks. Better yet, tell a veteran you appreciate what they have done.
God bless all of those who have courageously served their country and those who are still doing so.
God bless th USA.
Greg Nelson is a Morning Sun staff writer. He can be reached at or by calling 989-463-6071, ext. 15.


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