This Memorial Day, I am a little more pessimistic about my country than I have been in the past. Let's face it, Memorial Day is no longer a day to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and more for the start of summer and mattress saleathons.
But it is also time to remember that the people that this day is supposed to honor actually represents and honors all Americans, for there is no true "warrior class" in America. Sure, the demographics show that those who serve nowadays are more likely to come from the South and the West, from rural rather than urban, middle class more than the rich. But from all over the country, they come to serve. There is an entire subculture who do not serve, and know of no one who has served. And I pity them because they don't know what they have missed.
But of those who do volunteer and serve our country, they have a very wide base of similarity: They are ordinary. Not blood thirsty mercenaries, or the common uneducated criminal class. Instead, they are both ordinary, and at the same time an example of the best that our country has to offer.
They serve their country by joining. They serve their comrades by going out of the wire with them. No matter how many times, no matter how dangerous, they honor their fellow Americans by being there with them.
It is hard to describe fear accurately. Not the fear that is artificially induced such as in a scary movie, or doing something risky like rock climbing or skydiving. No, I am talking about the fear that comes from being absolutely dead certain that your luck has run out and it's your turn. Whether to die or be maimed, it doesn't matter. You just know that you won't survive to see the next day as you are today. And yet, still they go. That my friends is what courage is. They don't teach that at basic training, or any advanced schools. It is present in every American soldier who serves.
That is what should be honored today. But don't just say "Thanks for your service." While it may be appreciated, the best way to honor this day is to remember that they didn't serve or die for your freedom as many say. No, they died or served so that you can make the country better, freer, more courageous.
Don't let them down.