In my own words… Memorial Day a time to honor those who fought
May 25, 2001
When I was a child living in Florida, Memorial Day meant the last week of school and I couldn't wait for summer.
Now, I'm grown, have served in the military with three years in Vietnam and a year in Desert Storm and retired after 24 years. Memorial Day has taken on a different view to me, but only after my retirement from the military and return to civilian life.
I've seen where a few people still remember, but most people think of Memorial Day as a three-day weekend to get out of town or go to the lake, ball games, cookouts and family gatherings.
They don't know
But as someone who served and fought alongside many good men and women soldiers who took chances day after day I realize many people only know about Memorial Day, and combat, from what they see on CNN or the evening news. Most school kids don't know what Memorial Day is about. And really don't care.
They've not thought about it at all. They don't know that men and women have fought and died for their freedom and the right to go to the mall, movies, McDonald's, drive a car, use cell phones and any number of other freedoms they have.
Memorial Day means to me that civilians who never served in any way should be the ones who honor our former veterans and military because they did their part to keep this country free and safe to live in. It shouldn't be just the veterans putting on their own programs.
I lost many good friends in combat and know others who received the Medal of Honor, but if Americans don't start doing more to find out about us, it is sad that the memories will be all gone. There are less than 2,000 World War I veterans alive, and World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 1,000 a day.
In 20 to 30 years, Korean War veterans will be gone or very few will be left. By 2050, most Vietnam vets will be in their late 80s or 90s, or gone. Desert Storm veterans may make it to 2080 or 2090.
Proud of service
What it all boils down to is that I'm proud to have served in the footsteps of men like Sgt. York, Audie Murphy and so many others who gave their lives and service to their country.
And I'm proud of the men and women who serve every day of their lives for this country.
Because of veterans like me and others, Memorial Day should be a time for honoring all Americans who put the lives on the line. People should be proud to put on services or parades for the men and women who served this country with pride and honor. Place flags and flowers on their graves and memorials for them to keep their honor and memories alive so that when the veterans are gone they will not be forgotten.
Please remember the very few that gave so much so that so many can live in freedom. Some gave all and all gave some. Freedom isn't free.
Memorial Day is to honor those who fought and died for this country, yet we have veterans who just sit on their backsides and try to forget about the war they fought in. This is a time to honor every man or women who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Sgt. 1st Class James Swartz, U.S. Army (vet.), is a veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm. He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal and POW Medal. He lives in Meridian.