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Your View for Memorial Day: Why we mourn our brothers and sisters who didn’t come home

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” George Eliot.John, Dan and Mark. Three of my brothers from the strange and fragile brotherhood. Three who raised their right hand and took the oath, never anticipating that the bill would come due. Three who served with honor and a true heart. Three who I mourn and miss. And remember.Why do we do it? Why do we, in this all-volunteer era, still choose to serve? Why did our World War II, Korea and Vietnam draftees and volunteers answer the call? Patriotism? Adventure? Obligation? It certainly isn’t for the money — ask any veteran. But the reasons why don’t really matter. What matters is that we did and still do.Tom Applebach (Contributed Photo/)In his 2011 book, “We Meant Well: How I helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People,” Peter Van Buren writes of his tour of duty leading a provincial reconstruction team in Iraq. Near the end of his one-year tour, Van Buren attended the funeral service for one of the young soldiers that he calls Brian.Brian’s team leader, a young captain, provides the eulogy. He closes with the following, “I was his team leader but I never really knew him. Brian was new here. He didn’t have no nickname and he didn’t spend much time with us. He played Xbox a lot. We miss him anyway because he was one of us.”“… We miss him anyway because he was one of us.”Those 10 words crystallize what we veterans feel in our hearts. Because, there, but for the grace of God, go I. The vagaries of geopolitics and decisions made far above our pay grade may put us in harm’s way. But luck brings us home. Too often with fewer than we started.A World War II veteran recently shared an article he wrote for his regiment’s association newsletter. In part, he writes: “I still much remember and mourn especially for the comrades who served with me and gave their lives that you and I may enjoy our precious freedom. I think of the period of our training here in the states preparing us for combat service. We all had dreams and plans of what we would do after the war. Unfortunately, many never got a chance to enjoy their aspirations. I believe the worst evening of my combat experience was when we were being attacked, I had asked my foxhole buddy to man a weapon on which I felt he had more experience than I did. Unfortunately, he was immediately killed. I have lived with this tragedy for over 75 years. I am forever wondering if I will be able to thank him for giving his life that I may enjoy mine. I feel that this comrade truly gave his life that I may live. This incident has laid heavily on my mind and heart for 75 years and will probably remain until I get a chance to thank him in heaven.”And that is why we mourn them all each Memorial Day. Why we pause and offer our humble thanks and pay homage to our fallen comrades and fellow citizens (let’s never forget that) — honored members of the strange and fragile brotherhood.So, here’s to John. Fellow airman. The first American service member to die in the Gulf War just 10 days after Iraq invaded Kuwait that long-ago August in 1991.Here’s to Dan. He of quick wit and wry smile. A squared-away, born leader if ever I met one who died in Afghanistan in early 2004 when the controlled detonation of a weapons cache went horribly awry.Here’s to Mark, starting your second tour in Iraq only to be in the wrong place in the convoy when the driver hit the throttle and drove the car bomb into the intersection in 2004.And here’s to all of our brothers and sisters who didn’t come home with us — comrades, warriors and fellow citizens.We miss them all because they were one of us.Tom Applebach is director of Lehigh County Office of Veterans Affairs.
Source: Morningcall

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