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SERVING OUR VETERANS: Things to think about for Memorial Day 2019
May 24, 2019

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If my record keeping is correct, this column should be the 43rd I have had published since starting this position as Pierce County Veterans Service Officer in October 2017. I have often tried to hit upon several themes that I try to pass on to the readers. As we approach Memorial Day 2019, I would like to briefly mention again some of these themes. As we celebrate and remember those in our Armed Forces who have given their lives for this great land of ours, I would ask you once again to think about the following things.

Since our nation's birth, approximately 1.5 million of our country's sons and daughters have died in war time service for our country. Think about this.

There are no World War I military veterans alive today. Living World War II veterans make up only 0.6% of our population. Statistics indicate we are losing 372 of this group of veterans, from our "greatest generation," every day. Think about this.

Of the 130,000 U.S. soldiers and sailors taken as Prisoners of War in WWII, 1.2% held by Germany died in captivity and 33% died while being held in Japanese prison camps. Of the 7,400 U.S. servicemen taken as POW's in the Korean War, only 900 were alive at the end of the war. During the Vietnam War, 776 were taken as prisoners. At the end of the war, only 591 were released. Think about this.

Statistics indicate 7,470 U.S. servicemen are listed as missing-in-action from WWI, 30,314 from WWII, 8,025 from the Korean War, and 1,719 from the Vietnam War. For the loved ones and the families of these MIA's, there never has been, nor may there ever be, real closure. Think about this.

The freedom and liberties we enjoy today as U.S. citizens are being defended by only 0.4% of our population. This is the total percentage of our population serving in the military today. Think about this.

The same flag that flies over our land also covered the caskets of those we remember this Memorial Day weekend. Do we hold this flag in our hearts with the highest respect and dignity it deserves? Think about this.

In these times of so much division and hate, are we doing all we can to promote peace through unity, reconciliation, forgiveness and love for our fellow man? Are we educating our next generation of youth, in our homes and schools, about duty, love of country and patriotism? Think about this.

Let us always remember our freedom has come at a great cost. It is a battle that continues today. Every day, I try to remember to ask myself these two questions. Am I living my life in a way that honors those that laid down their life for our land? Is the way I am living my life worthy of the sacrifices made by those we remember today? I would ask that you ask yourself these questions as well.

To those we remember and honor this weekend, may their final thoughts, as they closed their eyes in death, be found in these words from an old hymn:

"When the darkness appears, and the night draws near, and the day is almost gone, at the river I stand, guide my feet, hold my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.

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