Type in the question,  “how many Americans died in combat overseas,” in your favorite search engine, and chances are the answer you’ll get is around 440,000.  This includes all wars fought on foreign soil from the Mexican-American War to the present day War on Terrorism (aka Iraq and Afghanistan). It does not include thousands more who lost their lives “in theater” meaning they were in the war zone but not on the battlefield; nor does it include those who died “outside the theater” as the result of war related activities. Why have so many of our men and women in uniform historically  put themselves in harm’s way, when the above statistics suggest that death would likely be the  outcome?  Is it a sense of honor,  patriotism, or duty? Maybe.  But I suspect there is a much simpler answer.  They did it because they thought it was the right thing to do;  and that meant either defending our  country or helping  a neighboring country  rid itself of an evil and oppressive enemy.  I know my father, two uncles, and an aunt saw it that way when they served in World War II; and I certainly did when I fought in Vietnam.  So, for that matter, did one of my stepsons who served in the Persian Gulf War.

Today, our nation is in peril from a determined enemy who is mostly unseen and sometimes lives amongst us.  Meanwhile, bickering between our political parties in Washington have created a gridlock that renders us  virtually leaderless.  Yet incredibly, the men and women in our armed forces continue to put themselves in harm’s way every day in Afghanistan and other hotspots around the globe.

I propose that this year’s Memorial Day be a politics-free day; no  long winded speeches from politicians readings words written by someone else;  who more than likely never saw combat or even wore a uniform. Instead, families should tear themselves away from  the TV, barbeque grill,or shopping mall; and go  to a quiet, peaceful place like a chapel, monument, or cemetery.  Once there, they should spend time in deep reflection, praying for the souls of those who paid the ultimate price for serving our country.  That, is the right thing for us to do.

Ron Standerfer is a novelist, freelance writer, book reviewer, and  photographer whose articles have appeared in numerous news publications including online editions of the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and the Honolulu Star Advertiser. He is a member of the International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance (ITWPA) and American Writers & Artists Inc (AWAI). He is a retired Air Force fighter pilot who flew 237 combat tours in Vietnam War. His novel, The Eagles Last Flight, chronicles the life of an Air Force fighter pilot during The Cold War and Vietnam years. He also publishes an online magazine, The Pelican Journal.

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