A message on Memorial Day to those who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting our democracy

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The American flag on display at Kinnick Stadium

By Pat Harty

IOW CITY, Iowa - I try to make a point each Memorial Day to say thanks and to seriously reflect on the amount of human suffering and loss that it took for me to have the freedom to do mostly as I please in life.

Sure, I’d rather pay less in taxes, but paying taxes is a tiny price to pay in order to support and protect our precious democracy.

The total number of Americans killed in all wars is more than 1.1 million, a total that is staggering, sad and tragic.

It is even more horrific when you remind yourself how young so many of our fallen soldiers were when they made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

From the poison gas that drenched the front lines in World War I to the overwhelming cruelty and advanced weaponry of World II to the terror and disillusionment of Vietnam, our brave soldiers have stood up to the worst that mankind could throw at them.

And now we face the never-ending battle against foreign and domestic terrorism, but we face it with the bravest and the best military personnel in the world leading the way, men and women who are willing to pay the ultimate price to protect the American values that we’re so fortunate to have in our lives.

Our country is certainly divided and there are little signs of that changing under the current circumstances.

But Memorial Day is a day when we should not feed the political divisiveness, but rather reflect on the overwhelming cost of life that it has taken to protect and sustain our democracy.

Just think of the lost potential that came with so much death, the number of young soldiers who never had a chance to become adults and to raise children and grow old in the greatest country in the world.

Memorial Day is a time to honor the courage and unselfishness of those killed while defending our country and everything we that stand for in a democracy.

It’s a time to appreciate what they all died for by rejoicing in the freedom that they have so bravely protected, and one way Americans do that on Memorial Day is gathering with family and friends for a barbeque.

It might seem trivial in the big scheme of things, but the tranquility, comfort and companionship that we cherish, but also take for granted with a family barbeque, has special meaning on Memorial Day.

I sometimes stare up to the sky while barbequing on Memorial Day and picture our fallen soldiers looking down with a look of pride and satisfaction because of what they died protecting.

My job for the past 30 years has been to write about sports, mostly about Hawkeye sports, which is probably one of the safest and fun things a person could do for a living.

You almost certainly won’t get rich, but your job is to chronicle the events that transpire on the playing field and hope that people read it and enjoy it.

Meanwhile, there are kids as young as 18 and 19 who have died while defending our country so people like me and you can achieve our dreams and live comfortably.

I always think of former Iowa football players Nile Kinnick and Fred Becker on Memorial Day because they both paid the ultimate price while defending our nation.

Kinnick was killed on a routine training flight when his plane crashed off the coast of Venezuela on June 2, 1943, while Becker was killed in action in World War I on July 18, 1918 in the Battle of Soissons in France.

Neither saw their 25th birthday so that we could.

I didn’t wake up on this Memorial Day planning to write this column, because as I said previously, my job is to write about Hawkeye sports, and to talk about Hawkeye sports on the radio.

This was more a case where I just sat down in front of the computer and started writing how I felt on Memorial Day.

Hopefully, you aren’t offended by me drifting off course this one time to express my gratitude, respect and admiration for those who died while defending and protecting our great nation.

We have so much for which to be thankful because of the brave men and women who have stood up to the powerful and evil forces that are determined to destroy our way of life.

Again, thank you to those brave souls for your sacrifice, and rest in peace.