We Owe Our Way of Life to Our Fallen Soldiers

A Column by Assemblyman Gary D. Finch (R,C,I-Springport)

All our lives are shaped by the choices we make, but there’s one choice that’s so profound, so meaningful that it forms the bedrock of our nation- the choice to enlist in our armed forces. The choice to protect your fellow citizens, to protect our freedoms at home and fight for our foundational values around the globe. It’s a choice that signifies such a deep love of country that you’re willing to put your life on the line for it.

On Memorial Day, we reflect on the lives, legacies and families of the courageous soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice throughout our nation’s history. Many of our civic and social celebrations are on hold this year. As unfortunate as that is, it does leave plenty of time and space for reflection, to truly focus on what it means to honor the memories of those who gave everything for our way of life.

Last year, I spoke at remembrance ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park in Borodino, New York. I invited the attendees to imagine, really imagine, attending the funeral service of a veteran. To stand at a burial site that Abraham Lincoln believed to be ‘hallowed ground.’ To listen intently to the prayers of committal. To hear the haunting melody of taps, to see the shell casings from the firing squad meticulously folded into the flag draped over the coffin. And to witness the most solemn moment in our civic life- to watch the commanding officer present the flag to the family, and say these words:

“On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, please accept this in deep appreciation for your loved one’s service to their country.”

As citizens, it’s our duty to make sure that we provide these families and veterans across the country with much more than a flag. We must continue to build on our bipartisan commitment to providing all those who serve with the healthcare, education and transition benefits they deserve. As citizens, it’s our duty to make sure that we express our gratitude for the courage and devotion of the brave souls who gave their lives protecting ours.

That shouldn’t just happen on Memorial Day. It should happen all year.