Pay tribute today

It sometimes is suggested the description “hero” is used too freely and often inappropriately. Certainly, to give true heroes their due, that may be open to debate.

But not today. This is Memorial Day. Those we honor today were heroes. They paid the most dear price imaginable to earn the appellation.

We Americans hold all who have served us in uniform in the highest regard. For nearly a century and a half, Memorial Day has been set aside for us to express gratitude to those who perished while in the armed forces.

We honor the Continental Army patriot who remained vigilant at his Valley Forge post until he froze to death.

We honor the brave Civil War sailor who died below decks when a pumpkin-sized solid shot crashed into his ship. We honor the airman whose flimsy wood and canvas plane plunged flaming into a field in France during World War I. We honor the Coast Guardsman who perished when a torpedo slammed into his ship during World War II. We honor the Marine who perished in the bitter cold of the breakout from Chosun Reservoir during the Korean War. And we honor more than 1.2 million of their Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard comrades who have laid their lives on the altar of freedom for more than two centuries.

Heroes are not found only in the pages of old history books. More than 58,000 of them gave their lives in Vietnam, and thousands more have sacrificed their lives in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world. Still today the heroes come forth – and fall.

How is it that we describe the fallen with the blanket term, “heroes?” We do so quite simply because they were men and women who knew when they put on the uniform of their country they were placing themselves in harm’s way.

This Memorial Day, then, we join the many others who will never forget in a heartfelt wish:

God bless these American heroes.