Thursday, May 26, 2011

More than a long weekend

By Bob Confer

Americans everywhere are enjoying this long weekend, an extended respite from the daily grind of work or school. It’s a joyous occasion, the unofficial start to summer.

That enjoyment of life and the rare chance to relax too often mask the real meaning of the Memorial Day holiday, one that recognizes the men and women who gave their lives so that we – and others around the world – might savor these weekends shared with family and friends. It’s vitally important that each and every one of us take some time today to honor those who fell in battle. You need not partake in a parade or attend a solemn service but you should, in your own way, quietly and genuinely reflect upon and appreciate the accomplishments and lives of our fine militaries of wars past and present.

Since the start of the Revolutionary War, 1.344 million people have paid the price for American goals. To put that into perspective, that’s slightly more than the population of the entire Western New York region. So, imagine all of the homes and streets being completely devoid of people from Niagara Falls to Jamestown and all points in between and near. That haunting visual should give you a feel for the scale of sacrifice.

It should also give you ample reason to set aside some time to appreciate the meaning of those sacrifices. Those soldiers, sailors and airmen saw and experienced horrors that very few of us ever will, and they gave their lives so that others may live, for the creation and preservation of human rights here and abroad, and for the furthering of our national interests.

America, the greatest and freest nation ever conceived, would never have existed had men not fought to the death against British tyranny.

She would never have remained intact, nor would 3.5 million blacks have been freed from slavery, had the North not found it morally necessary to preserve our nation or better the human existence.

The whole modern world would have been torn asunder and many millions more innocent lives taken by evil, had we not entered the two World Wars which cost of a half-million American lives.

Communism would have gained immeasurable might and influence had we not waged a proxy war against its principle powers – China and Russia – in the Koreas.

The Vietnam War may have been the most contentious in American history. 58,000 perished while having the honor to stick with America, regardless of our nation’s sociopolitical divide, showing the patriotism and allegiance lacking by 100,000 draft dodgers.

The War on Terror has been waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, with our men volunteering to fight for our security, wanting not to see a recurrence of 9/11 on our soil and ensuring those who initiated the attacks experience what their victims had. Nearly 5,800 have lost their lives to date in those theatres.

Those high profile wars are but a few of the dozens that have occurred in and out of our borders. American history has long been saddled with military conflicts and occupations. In all of them, many died in - and because of - combat. All of those fallen soldiers should be recognized for giving of themselves so that America can be and will be a nation of power, honor and integrity, just as they were in the moments leading up to their ultimate sacrifice. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. So, please, memorialize them today. It’s our patriotic duty and the right thing to do.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at

This column originally ran in the 30 May 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

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