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Ode To The Heroes of Yesterday

May 27, 2013
American Flag

American Flag

This morning over breakfast, I asked my two younger foster sons if they knew the significance of today. Both boys knew that today was Memorial Day, thank goodness, but the buck, pretty much, stopped there. The younger one 14, didn’t really understand what Memorial Day was all about at all; granted his IQ is quite a bit below average. The older one, 15, knew a bit more. He was able to tell me that the holiday was about remembering soldiers killed in war. When I asked him which war, he thought for a moment and responded “Vietnam, I think.”

I didn’t reply quickly, most probably trying to measure my words so they did not reflect the disappointment I felt – not at him – as much as toward the educational system in general, so he quickly added, “no wait, maybe the Korean War.”

I informed him that both answers were indeed correct, but also quite incomplete. I then went on to explain that we honor the American soldier who died in war today – and that it included all the wars in which we have fought, from the beginning of our country’s history.

I then listed the wars for the boys, just the way I copied them down from having researched the information so we could have this conversation today. I wonder how many of us actually know all the wars American soldiers have died in.

Afterward, I offered up a trivia question – and asked in which war the highest number of soldiers died. I actually gave my husband the opportunity to answer too. The youngest one had no input, the 15-year-old guessed World War II, and my husband surprised me by knowing the correct answer, The Civil War.

Arlington Cemetery

Arlington Cemetery

According to research I discovered 498,332 soldiers were reported to have lost their lives in the Civil War. World War II saw the next highest total of lives lost, 405,399. Just a bunch of high numbers, right? Ummm, NO! Not just numbers, deaths. Killings. The end of the lives of sons, brothers, husbands, fathers…lives, dreams, hopes, futures; shattered.

All these people, for whatever their reasons or walks in life, paid the supreme price; sacrificed their very lives, for this country. I wonder if there are many of us that can actually take in the intensity and depth of this. Not all, but many of the young men I know wouldn’t voluntarily give up five minutes of video game-playing time let alone be willing to sacrifice their lives for a cause they believe in.



The part of me that is still hopeful toward society and mankind, wants to believe that a level of devotion, heroism and dedication like there used to be, can still exist today. But I fear we have come out into the open too much for that. We are no longer as naive as we once were. A day doesn’t go by without us learning about another corrupt politician or authority figure that has been caught totally abusing the power and trust they have been given.

Sadly, I fear the times we are living in now do not yield much to the characteristics and values upheld by so many of the men and women we honor today. We’ve become much more of a ‘looking out for number one’ type of society than these heroes of our past knew.

This post is intended as a tribute to those heroes of days gone by – the men and women who lived during a time known now as ‘old school.’ It is intended to reach people like my dearest ‘brother’ who voluntarily enlisted in three tours of duty in Vietnam, and endured years of rejection by the country he dedicated his life to. It is for America, the beautiful and the beautiful people who hopefully can make it that way once again.


I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. I combine professional experience in the mental health field along with my love of writing to provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. I hope my down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life is easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

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