Memorial Day. It’s another one of those thoughtful days we don’t think about too long or too deeply. It honors the memory of those who have fallen in the defense of our country, but as is our habit here in the U.S., we fill it with barbecue and baseball and all-day marathons of whatever sitcom is currently in vogue.
Even being a military retiree and working on a military base myself, it’s easy to get a little complacent. I drive by the Fort Leavenworth National Military Cemetery every day. It’s pretty impressive–rows and rows of identical white marble markers covering a shady green hillside. There’s often a funeral in progress, usually some veteran who died at a ripe old age at home surrounded by his grandchildren. From time to time, they’re interring a kid from somewhere in Kansas who died in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s sad, and, unfortunately, all too routine these days.
This past week was a little different. We lost one of our own in Afghanistan, a colonel who commanded a training unit just down the street from my office. Ironically, he was in Afghanistan on a fact-finding visit, gathering information to help prepare the troops about to deploy overseas for what they’ll find there. Someone drove a car filled with explosives into his convoy, killing the colonel, four other Americans, a Canadian officer, and about 12 Afghan civilians on a bus nearby.
I never met the colonel. I saw him from a distance a few times around the Fort and at exercises, but by all accounts, he was a great guy, a loving father and husband, and a hero on his own merits, a veteran of many battles under hostile fire. The mood here has been very subdued. This is a training base, and though we’re all very aware of the dangers our troops face overseas, we don’t expect somebody from Leavenworth to come back from a research trip in a coffin. The funeral was last week. Everyone at the Fort lined the streets, waved flags, and saluted as his funeral procession passed by on the way to the chapel, escorted by over a hundred Patriot Riders on motorcycles.
This is the price of freedom. We lost a fine and valuable man from Leavenworth, Kansas, five of his fellow warriors, and a Canadian friend a couple of weeks ago to a psychopath spurred on by other psychopaths who don’t care how many of their own countrymen they have to kill to get what they want. These are the people the colonel and his companions were trying to defeat so the rest of us inside and outside Afghanistan and Iraq can go about our business and sleep safely at night, free from the tyranny of evil men who maim and kill for power and personal satisfaction.
This is why we have Memorial Day. This is what we must always remember.