Thursday, June 3, 2010

A View from the Inside on Memorial Day

There seems to be a lot of complaining going on in the US these days; perhaps even more pronounced than the complaints are the criticisms.

Our healthcare system is in turmoil, we don’t provide enough service to our senior population, education funding is lacking, the economy continues to ravage—the list seems endless. But Americans could never be criticized for continuing to show their respect and gratitude on Memorial Day, for every man and woman who gave their lives serving in the armed forces.

When considering the heroes we have lost and of those who continue to risk their lives, it remains evident that their importance could never be exaggerated—in fact the real danger is in not be able to ever express enough thanks and honor. While Memorial Day is the day when we remember those whose lives were lost, it also should serve, as does Veteran’s Day, as a day when we honor those who returned home from war and those who continue to serve today.

This week The Forum invites you to read what Memorial Day means to someone with an “inside view.” The rest of this editorial space is given to Sgt. Sean McCabe of Ozone Park who is currently serving on his second tour in Afghanistan. He sent along the following letter that was read by Sen. Joe Addabbo at a ceremony at the end of the Howard Beach Parade on Monday.

To everyone in attendance, my friends, family, my wife Melanie, and my daughter Kiera,

I send to you all the love in my heart. I'm writing to you on the rare occasion; as opposed to hunting Al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan, I am sitting behind a desk. (My mother has a giant smile on her face, doesn't she???)

It's hard to find words that truly express what Memorial Day means to me. Mainly because ever since I got to Baghdad in '05, every day has been Memorial Day. I've stood next to men who have laid down their lives in defense of their country. I've fought alongside heroes who have sacrificed themselves to save me, and my fellow soldiers. When I was younger, I just thought this weekend meant a day off from school, a barbeque, a baseball game - I even failed to fully appreciate Memorial Day as I got older. It wasn't until I came home after my first tour that it all dawned on me. An entire neighborhood lining the streets, the colors flying above Coleman Square - Pat Connolly's voice reading the names of our fallen brothers.

This is the day we remember those who gave everything to ensure our freedom. Men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion on foreign soil.

Today is a day we set aside, to honor what their courage and sacrifice has given us.

It is a gift. A gift I will never throw away for as long as I live.

I love you all, I'll be home soon.

SGT Sean McCabe

U.S. Army Special Operations Command

Above: Sgt. Sean McCabe uses binoculars to scout out enemy patrol on his assignment to overwatch patrol. In modern warfare, an overwatch unit is responsible for providing cover and unobstructed lines of fire for advancing friendly units.

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