It’s always been a special day for me, because honoring our vets has
always held special meaning for me; it’s a lesson my parents instilled
very well, indeed. It was brought home to me, as I was recently looking
at pictures from a trip we made through the Gettysburg PA area some
years ago.

It’s a particularly meaningful thing, when you’re standing on that
field…. Something that goes well beyond the cold facts and figures about
who died from what company, how old they were, or even where they were
from. It’s more a feeling you get…. You can sense it… not unlike being
at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, or visiting Arlington National
Cemetery. I’m told Omaha Beach, and Pearl Harbor and many other sites
are the same way. I’ve been at the funerals of firemen and policemen who
died in their line of duty, and that was also remarkably similar.

In each case, we’re dealing with places and concepts of death. But
death alone doesn’t do it; doesn’t create that solemn atmosphere that is
so unique to the above places. After all; there are lots of mass
casualty accidents have happened over the centuries and their sites are
well marked, and revered, or at least held apart, and yet, their impact
doesn’t approach that of an Iwo Jima or a Pearl.

Even under the shelter of the time that has passed since the events,
as you stand in each place, you can still feel it; Lives were lost there
that were willingly (And in the case of the civilian deaths at the
towers, unwillingly) sacrificed toward a higher ideal.

Our feelings and conclusions can be far different from what those
lost experienced. Yet, their lives and their sacrifices still count for
something. And the thing is, it doesn’t take much for us to out
ourselves in their mindset.

Think of it this way; Every single man who died at Gettysburg, at
Normandy, at Pearl and all the rest, has meaning for us because each of
them, had their own lives, just as we have our own lives. These people
loved, they laughed, they cried. They had a favorite food, a favorite
color, a particular bit of music, or of poetry stirred their souls, like
none other, just like we, ourselves. Every bit as much as you and I
love our lives, they loved theirs. Their lives were as precious to them,
as yours is to you. Their loss was as keenly felt by their loved ones
as yours would yours.

And yet, they gave their lives up, for something bigger..

….something they considered to be larger than themselves.

I have a neighbor, whose father just a few years ago needed a liver
transplant. This neighbor willingly gave up part of his liver to be
transplanted into his father. A noble action, certainly, commendable,
and impressive. But with all respect to my neighbor, the choice to do
that is comparatively easy to make. He knows and loves his father, and
the risks and sacrifices were fairly light by comparison.

How much more noble is a sacrifice of one’s life for people that one
will never meet? Well, the people we honor today, those in uniform
particularly, but some who were not, gave of themselves for the benefit
of people they would never know…. you and I, and countless others from
many nations. If not for their sacrifices, you’d not be reading this,
because I’d not have written it…. we’d be living in a very different
world, possibly, one not nearly as good to us as it has been.

That gift, that sacrifice, is what we memorialize today. Look upon
those actions, those sacrifices, and know what you’re seeing is
strength, courage, and nobility in measures that should not… can not, be
ignored. It must be honored by us all; it was made, after all for our

Think about that as we deal with the solemn proceedings for their day.