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Tom Smiley: Honor our fallen heroes with our actions, service
A firing party fires one of three volleys during burial services for Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr., a naval aviator and Medal of Honor recipient from Concord, Mass., at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, April 4, 2018 in Arlington, Va. Hudner earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

All across this beautiful land, in many towns and cities and villages, dedicated folks will place flags on veterans’ graves and we will honor fallen soldiers from all conflicts and wars.

Tom Smiley
The Rev. Tom Smiley
My father was a Korean combat veteran. He received the Combat Infantry Badge, the Korean Service Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars, the UN Service medal and an Overseas Service Bar.

Fortunately, my father wasn’t killed or wounded, but as a combat veteran awarded for performing duties while under fire, either could have been his experience.

I am proud of my dad’s courage and dedication to do what he was called upon to do. He, like many veterans, didn’t talk much about his experiences in Korea, but I could tell it had an impact on his life.

I certainly don’t presume that I can add anything of much consequence with my words in light of the silent testimony of those we honor on Memorial Day, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in honorable service.

But we must attempt to honor them, not for their sakes alone, but for the sake of our democracy, this notable experiment we call America.

Let’s honor them not only with our words, flags and flowers but  with our actions and dedication as we strive to keep America strong.

We can honor our fallen veterans by doing our best to preserve freedom and liberty for all.

Each of their lives stands as a memorial to our best efforts in keeping America strong and prosperous, in light of what that pursuit cost each of them. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. 

In light of their sacrifice, we must not grow weary or faint in our commitment to keeping America the “light on the hill.”

Some may say, “There are no more heroes.” I agree with former President Ronald Reagan: You just don’t know where to look.

I see heroes in the shadow of the White Crosses of Arlington.

I see heroes at Heartbreak Ridge.

I see heroes at the Battle for White Horse Mountain.

I see heroes in rice patties of Vietnam.

Our former president was correct when he said, “The willingness of some to give their lives so others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery.” 

He went on to say about our nation’s fallen soldiers, “As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: That no other generation of young men will ever have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.”

Memorial Day is more than America’s unofficial kickoff to summer. It is a day to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. 

In the Words of Longfellow, “They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast, And their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.”

God bless the families of our fallen patriots and God bless America.

Dr. Tom Smiley is senior pastor at Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville. He will be speaking at a Memorial Day event set for 2 p.m. Sunday, May 27, at Rock Creek Park in Gainesville.

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