- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 28, 2000

A weekend to honor our military heroes

It seems that the Memorial Day weekend has faded from a time to honor and remember American soldiers who have fallen in times of war and unrest to a marketing campaign to herald the coming of summer.

I suppose that is the American way.

How is it possible for all of us not to set aside a few moments to reflect and be thankful for the sacrifices made by so many, sacrifices that make it possible for us to enjoy the bounties of the American way?

I have a very special place in my heart for the Special Forces soldier. It is difficult not to have this feeling when you have firsthand experiences relayed to you. While doing research for a book about Special Forces medics, I have had the privilege and honor of talking with these men who served in the Vietnam War.

The Special Forces soldier is the first line of defense in hostile territory. Many of them paid the ultimate price for what they believed and for what the American soldier represents: freedom. The Special Forces soldier is truly the representative of the American way. After speaking with comrades of some of the men whose names are inscribed on the black granite wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I feel as if I personally know those men.

However, Memorial Day is not set aside for one particular branch or unit. All of our fallen soldiers, Marines, airmen and seamen, from regular and elite units from the Revolutionary War to this day, deserve to be honored and remembered for answering the call to duty.

Is it too much to ask that we pay our respects to those who sacrificed their lives for us to be free?

I dedicate this letter to my Special Forces friends and their fallen comrades, to whom I owe eternal gratitude for their sacrifices. Thank you for welcoming me into a very special brotherhood of America's finest soldiers.

LEONARD D. BLESSING JR.

Wilmington, Del.

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It has been nearly 30 years since I wore the uniform of my country. Like many phases of life, that one seems distant and almost as though it was lived by another person. I write this because in recent years, when Memorial Day approaches and the sentiment of the country turns toward the men and women who served in our wars, I am not overcome by pride. Instead, heartfelt sadness and a strongly distilled form of guilt overwhelm me.

As everyone who has seen Tom Hanks perform as the selfless, steely and seemingly overqualified leader of a small band of regular guys in "Saving Private Ryan" knows, war is definitively unfair and mostly random. It elevates some men to the status of heroes and lowers others into the ground. Survival seemingly is its own reward.

Although I have been to war, I have never smelled the smoke or heard the cries of the wounded or even lost a friend in battle. As one of the millions of men who served in the Vietnam conflict during its long, injurious reign on our nation's consciousness, I literally flew above the fray, safer than most, out of harm's way. Strangers did my share of the fighting, bleeding and dying.

Fortune chose me a survivor. My name is not on the wall on the Mall. I have three or four medals that I haven't looked at since my discharge. No Purple Heart or Bronze Star for me. I just have memories more blurred than salient and more nostalgic than damaging.

I am a Vietnam veteran who wants to give thanks to God and to my comrades who took my place on the wall and who, for better or worse, gave the full measure of their youth and energy. Thanks guys.

MICHAEL J. NATOLI

Alexandria

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Let us consider how we can best observe Memorial Day, the day designated to honor the countless thousands of servicemen who lost their lives in the pursuit and preservation of the freedoms we Americans enjoy.

The British call their similar day of observance Remembrance Day. With quiet reverence and dignity, relative silence is maintained throughout the day as a reminder of the sacrifices of their fallen serviceman.

We have long since lost all sense of reverence and dignity for Memorial Day. The commercialization of this sacred day of remembrance is typified by tasteless advertising and endless Memorial Day bargain sales.

Let us reassess the manner in which we remember and honor our fallen soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen on this solemn weekend. Perhaps a quiet day of prayer and contemplation would befit the occasion.

Consider the magnitude of the following list of battle deaths in the major wars throughout the brief history of our beloved country (Source: The World Almanac and Book of Facts):

Revolutionary War 4,435

War of 1812 2,260

Mexican War 1,733

Civil War 140,415

Spanish-American War 385

World War I 53,513

World War II 292,131

Korean War 33,667

Vietnam War 47,393

Persian Gulf war 148

Each of these 576,080 battle deaths represents a commitment to freedom. This should bring fuller meaning to this Memorial Day. God bless America.

VAN FOSSEN SCHWAB

Towson

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Although the formal observance of Memorial Day (or Decoration Day, as it was called for years) dates back to 1868, this nation always has remembered its fallen heroes. Let us all remember with gratitude and reverence the millions of Americans who made the great sacrifice.

We remember this weekend those brave men and women who made the supreme sacrifice so that others might live. We remember and lament the loss of our fellow Americans who, because of their sacrifice, will never again see the dawn of a new day or watch the world tiptoe toward darkness.

We remember and feel despair for the thousands of our fellow Americans who never had a chance to taste life in all its greatness or the opportunity to grow old.

It is altogether proper that we as a nation should remember these dead, for they died to make men free. They have lighted forever the eternal and sacred flame of freedom. We remember them this weekend and always as our eyes turn toward heaven in sober testimonial.

As Theodore O'Hara wrote in the 1847 poem "The Bivouac of the Dead," "On Fame's eternal camping ground their silent tents are spread," today and evermore.

JOHN A. MICKLOS

Baltimore

Readers recommend the president be disbarred

It's sad, but not surprising, to listen to the White House spin on the Arkansas Supreme Court disciplinary committee recommendation that the president be disbarred. The White House-backed comments are based upon the claim of bias that all of the president's friends had recused themselves from the determination process. So let me get this straight: If his friends had sat in judgment, President Clinton would have expected them to ignore the fact he lied and was fined by a Clinton associate, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, for contempt of court? What does this spin say about the president's view of friendship?

The decision was not biased. Rather, it shows that honest people can do what needs to be done (i.e. recuse themselves when there is a conflict of interest) if personal integrity is more important than personal allegiance something beyond the comprehension of this White House crowd and its defenders. Such reaction further confirms, if any more such confirmation were needed, that this president and his cronies think their primary responsibility lies with protecting Mr. Clinton no matter what he does.

Can anyone still be surprised that Mr. Clinton's reaction to the recommendation for disbarment is to turn loose the attack dogs once again, to attack honesty and integrity?

STEVE MINGER

Fort Washington

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Former law professor and legal ethics writer William Hodes discusses the possible sanctions against President Clinton for perjury, stating: "This case is an extremely big deal. It's not just about Mr. Clinton. It's about the integrity of the legal system" ("Judge has options, no precedent on punishment for president," May 26).

Mr. Hodes has it almost right, but his timing is off. It's too bad these sentiments were not expressed when the foundation for our legal system, the Constitution, was attacked by our leader. Clearly, our president has little regard for the sanctity of an oath, much less upholding the ideals of the underlying reason for taking any oath.

I have my doubts about Mr. Clinton's worthiness to hold his current office. I have no doubts about his worthiness to hold a law license. Disbar the perjurer.

DAVID SCHLOSSER

Arlington

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