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30 Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day

Memorial DayGrowing up my parents both labored to teach me the value of honoring the men and women who have or are serving in America's armed forces. My father is a veteran of the Vietnam War and my mother is a red-white-and-blue-blooded patriotic southerner whose roots go all the way back to Colonel James Barnett who fought in the 6th and 2nd Virginia Regiments which served under General George Washington during the famous Delaware River crossing at Trenton, NJ when Washington's forces rowed across the river to surprise England's Hessian mercenaries on December 26, 1776.

Colonel Barnett served his fledgling country until the war's end when he returned to Virginia to enjoy the freedoms that he and his comrades had so recently fought for. They were, and are, freedom which many in my family line have served and sacrificed to protect and defend, from the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812, then the Civil War, at the Alamo, and in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.

Many came home from their respective conflicts; many did not and their bodies lay in states of honor in cemeteries across the nation and around the world. It is a humbling experience to walk the hallowed grounds of Arlington or other American military cemeteries to find the resting places of these ancestors who "gave the ultimate sacrifice" in the service to their country, this country, the United States of America.

I admit that given the cost paid by so many families throughout America's history, a part of me wishes more of my fellow-citizens paid closer attention to the true meaning of Memorial Day, a holiday whose original name almost holds more meaning: Decoration Day. Indeed, one veteran from Indiana spoke those same concerns in 1913 when he lamented that people born after the Civil War had a "tendency... to forget the purpose of Memorial Day and make it a day for games, races and revelry, instead of a day of memory and tears" (yes, some called it "Memorial Day" back then).

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God, the Angels and 2 World War II Miracles

Much has been written about the power of faith during times of struggle, including and especially during times of war.

The saying that "There are no atheists in foxholes" holds almost universally true, though the soldiers, sailors, or airmen (or -women) may call their god by different names. It is the provenance of those called upon to fight for their country, or their deity, to find strength in faith (if they so desire), even if it is a faith they had previously forgotten or held with little regard. While in the words of General William Tecumseh Sherman "war is hell", God has the capacity to help the individual warfighter (and civilian) experience the help and strengthening hand of Heaven during his or her service.

The inspirational servant Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu, honored in the Catholic Church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, once said, "There's nothing more calming in difficult moments than knowing there's someone fighting with you." Anyone who has "felt the rumble of the guns", "heard the snap of the bullets" or "fired in anger" knows intimately the comfort that comes from knowing that you are not fighting alone, and what greater "foxhole buddy" can there be than God?

Countless soldiers can testify as King David did that during their time in combat, "The Lord (was) my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I (was) helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him." (Psalms 28:7).

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