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Memorials And Beginnings — By John Reed

Memorials And Beginnings
Two major events were observed within three days of each other during the past few days. On Monday, we celebrated Memorial Day, 72 hours after holding our annual high school graduation. It’s a pity neither event was mentioned during the other, for I see a necessary connection.
I’m not sure “celebrate” is the right word to mark the observance of Memorial Day. We honor the memory of those who sacrificed their lives while serving in the military. Monday, I was privileged to play “Taps” for our local event at the Veterans Memorial Park in front of our courthouse. Speeches were made, songs were sung. Families gathered to lay single red roses at the memorial wall. Those being honored laid down their lives so that the rest of us could continue living with the freedoms we enjoy.
On the previous Friday night, thousands gathered at the football stadium for the class of 2019’s commencement ceremony. Diplomas were awarded, tassels were switched, mortarboards tossed. And yes, more speeches in the heat. We call graduation “commencement” because, well, it’s the beginning of the next step in these young people’s lives. Some will enter the work force, some will continue their education at a tech school or college, and some will enter the military.
There seems to be a cyclical nature to how our society views the military. During World War II, servicemen and women were considered heroes. By the time we got to Viet Nam, the unpopularity of the war had spilled over to the people actually involved in it. Vets from ‘Nam still cope with the lack of respect and outright hatred they had to deal with once they got home. In time, the military once again returned to the position of honor and respect they enjoy today.
Will that continue? Exhaustion with our current overseas adventures is evident. Obama and Trump have both tried to scale back our operations in the Middle East. Combat deaths have dropped to single digits, yet there’s more outcry about them now than when we were losing several hundred a week at the height of previous wars.
The military life isn’t for everyone. And yet more young people than ever need the structure and order required to succeed in the various services. Fewer and fewer kids these days seem able to deal with authority. Our own local ROTC unit at school folded years ago…we had to get some Coffee County junior ROTC members to provide the honor guard Monday.
I would encourage parents and school staff to urge the military option; it’s a great meal ticket with benefits, training and college options hard to come by in civilian life. Our kids could “commence” their future lives with a career worthy of celebration

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