Contoocook Valley Young Republicans
On May 1st, 2011, Osama bin Laden, the man behind so many terror plots including 9-11 and the USS Cole was shot and killed by US Navy Seals in tandem with CIA and US Army Special Operations Aviation.  While I was happy like most people, I also cried.  We, as a nation, will honor our heroic dead this Memorial Day weekend.  For many veterans like me and the families that lost so much on 9-11 and the ensuing wars, Memorial Day is every day.

Memorial Day means remembering our honored dead, even when their cause is unpopular.

Memorial Day is not a celebration, but a somber remembrence.

My memorial day on this Memorial Day is more poignant than it has ever been.

Memorial Day began in the South after the Civil War.  Freed slaves gathered at mass graves of Union Soldiers and reburied them in a proper cemetary.  In the years that followed, they would have picinics in the cemetary and care for the grounds as a community.  The men and women, still bearing their slave names, cared for the nameless soldiers that died for them in an area that was at best indifferent to both of them.

Similarly, the disenfranchised Confederates remembered their honored dead in a South controlled politically by the North.  Again, their cause was unpopular, but their memories precious.

America has recently found it hard to be somber, solemn and grateful.  Once upon a time, we could muster more than a moment of silence.  There are many cultures around the world where memorials play a big part of civic life.  Central Asian countries have cemeteries that can be seen for miles because of all the colorful flags flying that can signify life accomplishments, family, tribe, religion and how death was met.  In America, we shy away from cemeteries; perhaps we don't want to be reminded of the easily frayed this mortal coil can become.  But cemeteries and remembering the dead can also teach us how strong this chain of life can be.

Who has an 18 year old friend?



Private First Class Jerod Dennis was 18 when I met him.  He had wanted to join the Army for years and finally did in 2002.  He finished Basic Training, Infantry School and Airborne School in November of 2002.  He reported to the 82d Airborne Division in December.  He deployed to Afghanistan in January of 2003.  His platoon was ambushed in April.  He died with less than a year in the Army.

Specialist "Doc" Katzenberger was 20 when I met him.  Everyone who served with him loved him.  He volunteered to enter fire fights; not to engage and kill the enemy, but to pull out our wounded.  He died after his truck drove over an IED.  My tire tracks could still be seen next to his down the path from where I had driven just the day before.

My enduring image of Sergeant Joshua Boyd is that of a 30 year old man playing soccer with a bunch of shoeless kids as the sun set over the Hindu Kush mountains.  Sergeant Boyd had left a professional soccer career in Italy to join the Army after 9-11.  It felt like a bag of bricks to the stomach a year later when I saw his official Department of Defense picture on the cover of Fort Bragg's weekly paper, The Paraglide.  DoD pictures don't go on the cover of The Paraglide for good news.

So, you can do what you want, but I encourage you to join me; do not celebrate Memorial Day.  I will spend the day quietly remembering my fallen brothers.  When I found out that bin Laden had been killed, I was excited.  I texted all of my Army buddies.  But I quickly grew melancholy as I  remembered everyone who died in support of finding this guy and his cronies.

Please.  Celebrate freedom every day.

But please.  Join me now in remembering the fallen military and civilians whose deaths from 1776 to 2011.

Thank you.

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