They deserve our recognition and our gratitude. Memorial Day is more than summer’s beginning.
This week, in what is already a longstanding tradition in the Intermountain Jewish News, we feature the names of those Jewish veterans from Colorado who have passed away**.
We do this in respect and honor of the sacrifices they made on behalf of our country, whether that sacrifice came in the form of physical wounds, psychic wounds (less visible but no less daunting) or their very lives.
We do this regardless of whether they served in the Army, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, the Marines or the Navy, and regardless of which war or conflict, or which era of peace, saw that service.
We do it because they deserve our recognition.
Some of the individuals whose names appear on the list were fortunate enough to have received the grateful thanks of the country they helped defend. Those of the “Greatest Generation” — the Second World War — were rightly regarded as heroes for having saved the world from the madness and the evil of Nazi fascism and anti-Semitism.
Veterans of other wars — notably Korea and Vietnam — were often not treated so kindly, for the wars they fought in became unpopular and the nation that spurred them seemed desirous of forgetting them.
Those who have fought more recently in the Persian Gulf and Iraq, and those who still fight in Afghanistan, have received more respect from Americans.
But all of these veterans, regardless of when and where they served, are true comrades. All of them interrupted their lives, left their loved ones behind, underwent challenging training, to don the uniforms of the Armed Forces.
Many of them faced America’s enemies on distant battlefields. Of these, many never returned, having given the ultimate sacrifice.
Memorial Day is for them.
Memorial Day is for us, too.
Although this holiday has evolved into a celebration of summer’s beginning — and that’s fine, as far as it goes — we must remember its original purpose. Take a glance at the long list of names in this week’s edition, illustrated by the image of soldiers from wars long past and still underway.
See if you recognize any names on that list. If you do, offer them thanks personally, from your heart. If you don’t, thank them all as a group. They are comrades, after all, and each and every one of them deserves our thoughts.
Not every eligible individual who served his or her country is represented on our ever-growing list.
There are names that predate our custom of gathering them, or predate the newspaper itself. There are others who have simply escaped our notice, and we would like readers to let us know their names, so that they can join the ranks of their brothers and sisters in arms and receive due recognition in these pages.