Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation

Article excerpt

Years ago, I was at church. It was the Sunday Mass before Memorial Day. Prayers were offered for those traveling over the holiday weekend. Prayers for families that would gather. Then the service went on. I'm a pretty staid Catholic. But this was painful. I said, out loud, "We can pray for folks who barbecue this weekend, but we can't spare a prayer for the people who gave their lives for their country?" My wife took my hand, and calmed me.

That service was a reminder of how distant military service, and sacrifice, are from most folks. According to census figures, veterans currently make up about 7.3 percent of the overall population. Most people have no contact with anyone on active duty, much less anyone who later died in war.

Veterans Day and Memorial Day are often confused. Veterans Day is for all those who served in the uniformed services. Memorial Day is for those who died. It is just as well that we confuse these terms. It reminds us of how few people actually serve, how these two days have more to do with barbecue than memory.

Another Memorial Day approaches. The act of remembering is a solitary thing. It does not do the remembered any good or ill. But the memory matters. Regardless of politics right or left, war will never end unless we remember, by name, those who died.

Therefore, I would like to propose to my reader a simple task this Memorial Day. Pick a name. Pick someone who died. Go to a web page, a memorial, and pick a name. Say the name out loud. Read the obituary. Think about that person's mother, father, siblings, friends.

Or allow me to do all that for you.

Gary Nieman grew up in York, Pa. He was a working-class kid. His father worked at York Narrow Fabric, and his mother toiled in several sewing factories. He had two sisters, Ardella and Dorothy, and three brothers, Edgar, William and Charles. His sister, Dorothy, he always called Dot. …

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