Elmer Canfield was my maternal grandfather. I remember him as the kind, gentle, loving man who wasn't quite sure what to do with a little girl... so he taught me to prepare specimens for examination under a microscope. By the time I came along he was a college professor specializing in fungi and forest pathology. Much of our time together involved hiking and being outdoors, gardening, raising hay (literally), irrigating, identifying weeds, riding horses, and looking up to see the airplanes flying overhead.
One of my final memories of him occured on the day he was being sent home from the hospital- to die. He asked us to watch out for Grandma and make sure she was taken care of. He told us, with tears not quite falling from his eyes, that he always believed it was wrong for his bride to have to take out her own garbage. Death wasn't something he feared, but leaving his bride alone was. At the time of his death they had been married for just over 60 years.
Grandma thought his concern for her well being over his own was a little bit silly since there were times even while they were married that she had, for all intents and purposes, been alone. One of the most troubled periods of time was while he was a P.O.W. in Germany. All these years she has kept the telegrams she recieved over the course of the year he was in a prisoner of war camp.
Reading these telegrams reminds me that the veterans we celebrate today are real people. It's easy to take for granted the freedoms we enjoy. Some here may complain of racism, or sexism, or other -isms but in reality we are very lucky to live in the United States. As a parent I hope that none of my children ever have to go to war. I hope that the world is all sunshine and roses and world peace occurs. But we all know that world peace isn't going to happen. There will continue to be times of conflict. Backing down from conflict by compromising whenever other countries don't approve of us is a surefire way to lose the freedoms my grandfather and so many others fought and even died for.
It's our duty to act as stewards of freedom for the next generation. War is ugly. We certainly shouldn't go out looking for a fight, but we can't turn the other cheek when the fight comes looking for us. Too many lives were lost, families scattered, when soldiers fought first to free us from English rule and later to preserve the Union. WWII was not fought on American soil, but our presence there was important in preserving our own freedom none the less. Genocide and tyranny are not small issues to be overlooked in an effort to preserve the peace. Peace gained through pacifism, surrending our freedoms in an effort to avoid a fight, is not peace. It's an invitation for tyranny to come live in our land.
Today remember what was sacrificed.
Remember the men and women who gave up everything to fight for us.
Remember that today you can safely walk into the religious institution of your choice whether it's a church, synagogue, mosque, or fairy circle. Remember that I can write (and so can you) in criticism of our government without fear of reprisal. Remember that we can own firearms to use for procurement of food as well as protection of life and property. Remember that you can choose how to educate your children, how to discipline your children, and how many children you will welcome into your family. Remember that all people are equal in the eyes of God and should be equal under the law as well.
Remember that our veterans are people just like us, with families like ours. They are people who loved as deeply we do, cared as much for their children as we do.
Remember that the men and women who sacrificed for us think our freedom is not just worth fighting for, it is worth sacrificing everything for.