Opinion

Honor those who have sacrificed for our country

"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself."

Joseph Campbell, author

In less than two weeks Americans will be enjoying a three-day weekend which serves as the unofficial start of summer. But for a number of Snohomish County families, Memorial Day has taken on a new and tragic meaning as they commemorate the loved ones lost while serving their country in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

On May 26, as the country commemorates Memorial Day, we too should take time to remember them and the sacrifices they made for our country, and for us.

We should remember and honor Marine Pfc. Cody S. Calavan, a 19-year-old from Lake Stevens who died May 29, 2004; Army Spec. Jordan Hess, 26, of Marysville, who was killed Dec. 5, 2005; 20-year-old Army Spec. Justin Hebert, of Arlington, who was killed Aug. 1, 2003; Army Sgt. Charles Matheny IV, 23, of Stanwood, who was killed Feb. 18, 2006; Marine Lance Cpl. Shawn Starkovich, 20, of Arlington, who was killed July 16, 2007; and 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Jeffry Starr, of Snohomish, who was killed May 30, 2005. And we should remember and honor Army Reserve Spec. Joseph Cerfus, of Marysville, was was killed May 5, 2008, during a training exercise at the Canadian Manoeuvre Traning Center, CFB Wainwright, Alberta, Canada. We should also remember and honor those who fought and died throughout our nation's history. More than 1 million Americans have given their lives in service to their country. Nearly 5,000 died in the American Revolution; 2,000 in the War of 1812; 13,000 in the Mexican War; 620,000 in the Civil War; 5,500 in the Spanish-American War; 112,000 in World War I; 405,000 in World War II; 54,000 in the Korean War; 109,000 in the Vietnam, 148 Americans were killed in the Persian Gulf War and approximately 4,500 Americans have died in Afghanistan and in Operation Iraqi Freedom and more will, regrettably, continue to die as the conflict drags on.

Origins of the holiday date back to the Civil War era when it was called Decoration Day. On May 5, 1868 Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed that Memorial day would be observed May 30 when flowers would be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. New York was the first state to recognize the holiday in 1873. While the holiday originally honored those who died in the Civil War, shortly after World War I the holiday changed to honoring all Americans who died in any war. In May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, N.Y. as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo, which had first celebrated the holiday on May 5, 1866, was chosen because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. That tradition continues today as veteran groups and local scouts place flags and hold observances at cemeteries in Arlington and Marysville. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.

And on May 26, we will have the opportunity to honor those, whether they are from our communities or others, who have died in the service of our country. Remember their names Calavan, Hess, Hebert, Matheny, Starkovich, Starr and Cerfus and never forget the sacrifice they made in defense of our country and our way of life.

STF

To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Stuart Chernis or Scott Frank e-mail forum@marysvilleglobe.com.

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