The New Heroes

Memorial Day gains tragic dimension

By Richard Santos

National Commander of the American Legion

One year ago, we were a nation at peace, but not now. A short year ago, Blue Star Service Banners were lost in the memories of a half-century ago, but not now.

On Memorial Day 2002, I see more and more Blue Star Service Banners in front windows of houses and businesses across America. A banner reminds us that a loved one from that family is serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, fighting terrorism in Operation Enduring Freedom and providing homeland defense. Unfortunately, Gold Star Banners are replacing some of the blue.

Today’s men and women sent into harm’s way differ little from the doughboys who fought in the trenches of France, the GI’s who stormed the beaches of Normandy, or the troops who bought inches of land with blood at Korea’s Chosin Reservoir.

Indeed, they are no different than the millions of men and women who have answered the clarion call throughout American history. As did those before them, today’s men and women that we honor did their duty. Regrettably, we must now add 3,000 more names to the list of our honored dead.

Some of the honored dead were in the Armed Forces, but some were not. Each was on the frontlines of the terrorist assault on America. All lost their lives on Sept. 11 or the days following. It is fitting that, as we remember the military men and women who died in service to America, we also — just this once — remember as well the first casualties of the War on Terrorism. They are also American heroes who died in the line of duty. They gave their all in service to their country as surely as if they had been on the frontlines of Afghanistan.

Again, young Americans, wearing the uniforms of our armed forces, are fighting in a war without borders and without clearly identified combatants. Some of them have given the supreme sacrifice for our nation. We are thankful that we are a nation that does not forget ... that we are a people who remember and honor the memory of those who died fighting the enemies of the United States — wherever and whenever they threaten.

On this Memorial Day I ask all citizens of this great land to remember the sacrifice of more than one million Americans whose memory we honor today.

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