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May 30 / Matt C.

Memorializing Memorial Day

This past weekend was a big one. Memorial Day always stirs deep feelings of patriotism, reverence, and wonder. It’s a day to celebrate the very best of our Nation: the Armed Services. This is one of two days that is truly dedicated solely to those who have made the ultimate oath, to defend and die for our country. They live with constant fear and danger in such far-flung, God-forsaken lands keeping the fight off of American shores.

This weekend was for them. This weekend was for Mr. Paul Monti, who’s son made that sacrifice. He made it in actions heroic enough to win his right to stand next to some of the greatest military heroes this country has ever had: Recipients of the Medal of Honor. Here are the remarks President Obama made at the Presentation of the Medal of Honor. The actions of a true hero, doing his duty for his fellow soldiers.

He’s buried in the National Cemetary in Bourne, Massachusetts. This huge cemetary holds the remains of 56,000 others who took a pledge just as SFC. Monti did. Many gave their lives in acts of heroism, in the heat of the battle. Many made the ultimate sacrifice: giving their lives in defense of our country. And so when Paul Monti saw these graves going undecorated, unadorned, seemingly forgotten, he did something about it. The father of a Medal of Honor recipient rallied and fought the Veterans Administration for four years to place a simple flag at each headstone.

And I was there. It was tremendous. The outpouring of love and support and honor was simple breath-taking. Hearing the National Anthem rolling out past thousands of flags and seeing family and friends and total strangers coming together to honor those “who are no longer with us“, all of those who pledged to defend our national whenever the call came. Perhaps more importantly, there are those charged with ensuring that their friends, the very same ones who laid in foxholes in trenches, went through and hell and back with them felt the need to earn their life, for it very well could have been them dead.

They came back from these seemingly God-forsaken lands, experiencing terror by night and death by day. They might have left as smiling kids, at the age of 22, 20, 18, many earlier. They left as kids, but came back as men.

And then the nation turned around and did this generation of men one of the biggest favors it could have. It gave these veterans a chance at a better life. The country  stood by and said, “Yes, you are worthy of the biggest gift we can give you.  We will give you the gift of education and a house. After years spent fearing for your life, we will give you the gift of stability.” The GI Bill allowed more than half of all veterans to be given a leg up in life. A simple bachelor of arts went much farther than it does today.

My grandfather took advantage of this, and never once have I bill allowed to forget it. It allowed him to leave behind his millyard job and become a salesman providing economic insurance to the local members of his community, and selling real estate on their side. He was able to put two kids through college, and spend his summers on the Cape. He was able to take business courses at Bryant University after serving in Japan during the Korean War.

For the “Greatest Generation,” the greatest reward. Defense of the country merited the country giving right back to them. It means providing all manner of help necessary to ensure that they are given the very best of everything. It is why I fear for some of these men. A bloated government bureaucracy is seemingly out of touch with what living in the modern age requires. Tuition payments, back pay, psychiatric help, it all is done at a pace that the VA doesn’t understand. They’re trying to change, and the hiring of  ”Army of Dude” blogger to be an “inside critic” to give the bureaucracy a prod.

Today is also about those guys. It’s a pledge to the current veterans, the ones who have to survive the other 363 other days. Memorial Day stands a testament to our current veterans to never forget the sacrifice that they have made, what they will do to protect this country, to protect our way of life. Today is a thank you to each and every one of them.

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