Remembering Duty, Honor and Country on Memorial Day

By Bob Baker

Words such as valor and honor are often mocked and scorned at today, but let no one ever do so on this, or any, Memorial Day.

Honoring those who have fought for our country is worthy of our respect and admiration, just as it was when Pericles praised his fellow Athenians of the Peloponnesian War in 431 B.C. and as Memorial Day essentially began in the United States of America after the Civil War.

Perhaps it wasn’t part of how some were raised, but for many of us, our own personal tradition remains true to those who came before us.

“Duty, Honor, Country” is a motto of the US Military Academy, but it is also a summary of the frame of mind many people in the services have and were raised with. You live by your word, your oath, your handshake. Those who we honor this day knew this and our country is better for it, because these principles continue to endure and shape the character of the many who serve.

A grandfather, an uncle, a father and a father-in-law who served in WWII, another uncle between Korea and Vietnam, my father’s two tours and my one to Vietnam, two brothers afterwards, and a nephew who served in Iraq and Afghanistan – all Army but two – are a recent legacy of which I’m proud. From generation to generation, the call was sounded and we all responded.

While a teenager awaiting my father’s first return from Vietnam, we lived in a community somewhat unique. Often called the Home of the Waiting Wives (Shilling Manor, Salina, KS), members of all the Armed Forces, officers and enlisted, were able to leave their families while they deployed to Vietnam. It was not uncommon to see a family being notified that their husband and father was missing or dead. We would try to comfort and help each other as best we could, also knowing that someday the positions might be reversed. We would sometimes hear how someone had died, the stories of war are many, with heroism and valor almost always common traits. Through all these years, there is much to remember knowing that death was often near.

To paraphrase President Reagan’s remarks on Memorial Day, 1984, “They saw the horrors of war but bravely faced them, certain of their own cause and their country’s cause was a noble one; that they were fighting for human dignity, for free men everywhere. Today we pause to embrace them and all who served us so well. We can be worthy of the values and ideals for which they sacrificed – worthy of their courage in the face of a fear that few of us will ever experience – by honoring their commitment and devotion to duty and country.”

Our thanks to all who fought for our country and the values we hold dear. May we always treasure their valor, courage, and the sacrifices they made so each of us can continue to enjoy living in the greatest country in the world.