Names of what I presume were Farmington veterans who lost their lives in the service of their country were engraved in black stone. Someone had tucked a fresh yellow rose next to one of the names. I noted that more than a few of the black squares were blank, an unfortunate reminder of wars yet to be fought that will no doubt claim more lives.
I wrote down a quotation from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow engraved in large letters near the top of the monument:
"They are dead but they live in each patriot's breast, and their names are engraved on honor's bright crest."
As Memorial Day approaches, I fear that many Americans view the holiday as the start of their summer vacation season, a time to enjoy life. Only a few take the time to think about the sacrifices thousands of American soldiers have made over generations to allow us to enjoy these freedoms.
Searching for the history of Memorial Day, a holiday first designated 1868, I found an interesting statement on the website www.usmemorialday.org. It read:
"Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored and neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country."
I plead guilty to not honoring our fallen veterans as much as I should on Memorial Day. I guess it's why as the holiday approaches each year, I try to seek out a small quiet veteran's memorial such as the one in Farmington to at least pay tribute to those soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
As someone who grew up when getting drafted was a real possibility, opted to join the National Guard in 1970 and ended up staying in until 1991, I think one of the big problems with a younger generation of Americans is that many either don't know or are only casually acquainted with someone who serves in the military.
It's one thing to call for going to war in, say Syria, when you know you and your family members will never be put in harm's way.
It's a whole different matter when you know a soldier who might have already been deployed for three tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, and must now leave family and safety for another difficult tour.
The chickenhawks in this country are often vocal supporters of sending our soldiers into harm's way, but don't ask these paper patriots to pay their fair share of taxes for our misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It's easy to put a patriotic magnetic ribbon on the back of your car supporting the troops. It's a whole other matter to send a loved one into battle.
So, as Memorial Day approaches, I'd urge every citizen to find a quiet spot at a veteran's memorial or cemetery and take just a moment to contemplate the sacrifices so many have made so we can remain free.