anne_mikolay_120When I was a kid, Memorial Day signaled the start of the count-down to summer recess. I didn’t care about flag-waving parades, holiday picnics, or wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. All my friends and I cared about was the approaching freedom of summer, when our young lives would no longer be ruled by teachers and obligations, and we could do pretty much whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Blissfully ignorant, we gave little thought to fallen servicemen; we thought only about ourselves.

These days, I think a lot about soldiers. Men of my family have bravely served in our nation’s armed forces. My great-great grandfather served in the Union Army in 1862, fought his fellow countrymen, and withstood all that conflict entailed – the moth infested hardtack, days on the march, sleeping on the ground, and far more hardships than I can imagine, I’m sure. During World War II, my father served in the United States Army, as did my Uncle. My Dad has told me many horror stories about his service in the Philippines, the Spam and beans he ate, the lizards that crawled into his shoes…the many friends he lost, the atrocities he witnessed throughout the battles. My cousin is a Marine who recently served in Iraq. During his tour of duty, I sent him toiletries, deodorant, chap stick, and baby wipes to help him cope with the 110 degree temperatures. These men fought for my safety and my freedom, and through the grace of God, returned home to continue their lives. Sadly, many of their fellow servicemen did not.

Whether or not you agree with war – the current conflict, or any war – consider what war means to the daily lives of the men and women who serve. Think about how you would feel putting your life on the line for people you don’t even know, for people who will never even thank you. Could you do it? Could you have pulled a bayonet upon a “brother” in the Civil War? Could you have lived in the jungles of New Guinea in World War II? Could you handle the danger in Iraq, or Afghanistan, survive the brutal climate? Our American servicemen accept these challenges, make untold sacrifices, to preserve our freedom – so we can go on blissfully doing pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want. Memorial Day is more than a parade and a hot dog. It’s the day we must remember our fallen heroes, those intrepid men and women who lost their lives preserving our American way of life, and our honor. They made untold sacrifices daily, and ultimately gave their lives.

God bless them, each and every one.

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Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...