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COLUMN: Celebrate the lives lived and lost

By: TOM ROEDER
May 28, 2018 Updated: May 28, 2018 at 4:10 am
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Tom Roeder Friday, March 21, 2014. Photo by Mark Reis

I saw a headline today that angered me. It offered ways to "celebrate Memorial Day" in 100-point type.

I was mad, then frustrated, then sad.

Then I had a thought.

This weekend, we should celebrate. But we need to celebrate the lives of the 400 local kids who gave it all in the past 15 years to underwrite the party.

I knew too many of them.

They're from places like Dalhart, Texas, and Johnstown, Pa, dots on the map I've passed through. They died in places such as Ramadi, Al Qaim, Mosul, Kandahar, Korengal and Jalalabad.

In that time in between they served this big goofy country, where we're free to yell at each other on Facebook, insult each other on Twitter and have three days of rest and relaxation this weekend.

I think we overstate things when we portray them all as "heroes," like so many members of a John Wayne movie cast. They were complex. They loved. They screwed up.

Some joined because their parents or grandparents had served. Others couldn't find a job and needed to pay for a family in a hurry.

Their motivations don't matter. How they died really doesn't matter either. Some got bombed and others made heroic stands.

What really matters, though, is that out of desperation or patriotism, they gave the life they had to the other 300 million or so of the rest of us.

They gave that life because they were sent by us. Doesn't matter if you disagreed with the war.

We elected the people who authorized the order that put them in that place.

We the people had a price to pay. They covered the tab.

Sunday's Gazette had a story about two of them - Green Berets who bought the farm in Afghanistan.

Give it a read.

And take a minute to honor all of these sons and daughters, and the kids who went before them.

It should be a party. One that celebrates lives lived, and sacrificed for us.

In an era when too many Americans forget we're even at war, in Colorado Springs we have 10,000 more of these kids overseas who have signed up to pay the same price.

And they know that price.

Since we started this nation, 900,000 people have died in war. They were almost universally young, fit, healthy. Most were enthusiastic.

It's like having Oakland, Tulsa and Minneapolis sacrifice their populations for us.

The willingness is as staggering as the scale.

The spirit of those Americans should be celebrated.

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Tom Roeder is The Gazette's senior military editor.

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