While Memorial Day is observed as a relaxing long weekend with family and friends, two events over the past weekend are reminders of the true meaning of this national salute to veterans who have sacrificed for our freedoms, the Marine Corps Half Marathon in Fredericksburg, Virginia and, closer to home, Armed Services Day Parade in South Charleston.
It was with great pride that the Kanawha Valley honored U.S. Air Force Colonel William T. Bare as parade marshal, a distinguished graduate of South Charleston High School. As the Andrew Jackson Middle School band marched to patriotic music, one could not help but treasure the hard-earned freedom with which we are blessed.
Though day-to-day, how we govern our nation, our state, our local communities is often fraught with divisiveness, it is precisely because we are a free people that we are privileged to debate how we choose to live.
Just watching the well-attended patriotic procession in South Charleston, one could not help but think about news stories around the world about freedom denied: a Chinese dissident silenced for protesting government oppression, military aggression in Syria and Egypt, a crackdown on citizen dissent in North Korea and the revival to power in Russia of Vladimir Putin who, as a show of machismo, could pose a threat to the U.S.
It was especially gratifying that on the eve of Armed Forces Day the U.S. House of Representatives handily rejected an attempt to gut the F-35 fighter jet program, the next generation of weapons system that will send a signal across the globe that the U.S. will stand firm to protect its freedom. Let hope that any such legislative attempt in the Senate will be rebuffed with the backing of Armed Services Committee member Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The rule of law in the United States must not be taken for granted. It was shaped on these shores by our forefathers and preserved by the men and women who serve proudly in our armed forces. Memorial Day is a time to be grateful to them.
Frank S. Hewes