By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Column: I’m grateful for troops’ sacrifice for our freedom
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I think any day is a good day to honor those who put on the uniform of our country to fight for our freedom. If I see someone with a cap naming where they served, I try to thank them for their service.

But this is the history lesson that some people forget. Memorial Day is the day we honor those who served and did not come back. There is the saying, “All gave some and some gave all.” This is the time we honor those who gave all.

World War I was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.” There were 3,700 Georgians who died in service to America in the first world war.

About 20 years later, we entered World War II. There were 300,000 Georgia soldiers and sailors killed in the war. Young brides and surviving mothers hung a gold star in their window to indicate someone in their family had died.

It was not unusual to see a military car drive up to a home and inform the survivor of the death of their loved one. Some of our fallen troops are buried in federal cemeteries. The newest one in Georgia is just outside of Canton and was built on the top of a small mountain looking out to the mountains to the north. It is a beautiful and serene place and is most appropriate as a final resting place for someone who served.

When Max Cleland was serving Georgia in the U.S. Senate, he came to see the site in Canton. It was in the process of being graded.

He invited me to ride to the top with him in a four-wheel drive SUV that someone was driving. He looked at me and said, “What a view.” He said he might come back there someday.

Cleland, a triple amputee, served as head of the Veterans Administration during the Carter administration. With his injuries and his service to the government, he probably could have gotten a gravesite in Arlington Cemetery. But instead after his death a few years back, he had chosen to be laid to rest in Canton.

Not everyone in our military cemeteries died in battle, but they do have to meet certain requirements of service to be buried there.

There are still 170,000 living veterans of World War II. Many of various campaigns have died. When we have programs to honor veterans, the number of World War II veterans continues to decline as they reach well into their 90s.

I can remember as a boy watching a parade in Monroe. There were a good number of World War I vets still living. Now, we see the same thing of World War II. 

A few years ago, when our World War II vets were dying at a rate of thousands per day, the military was having a hard time keeping up with the requests for honor guards. Several veterans’ groups obtained uniforms and military rifles to perform the full military rites. Now, many of them are gone and others are too feeble to carry out the task.

Throughout the state, there are memorial markers honoring those who gave all in our country’s fight for freedom. If you have a minute, take a look at those names and be grateful for people who died that we might be the great nation of today.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly.