A day to remember

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 21:01
Eagle River’s Audrey Erickson, 3, places a flower on a grave at Fort Richardson National Cemetary with her sister, Ava, 6, on Memorial Day, May 28. Audrey and Ava were joined by their parents, Michael and Lisa, and 1-year-old sister, Lucia.

It was great to see the large turnout on Memorial Day at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery, and heartwarming to see young children placing flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. That we live in a country where honoring those veterans who gave their lives for others is truly a blessing.


So far this year, four U.S. Army soldiers stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson have lost their lives while fighting in Afghanistan. The oldest, Staff Sgt. Thomas Fogarty of Alameda, Calif., was just 30 years old. The others — all members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division — were Spc. Jeffrey White Jr., 21, of Catawissa, Mo.; Pfc. Richard McNulty III, 22, of Rolla, Mo.; and Sgt. Brian Walker, 25, of Lucerne Valley, Calif.

These brave men died in defense of the freedoms we often take for granted here stateside. That they were willing to pay such a steep price for freedom is something we should all take a moment to remember — not just on Memorial Day, but whenever we take time to reflect on our good fortune to live where we do.

It wasn’t long ago that we were wishing some of these men well at a send-off ceremony held in Anchorage in November. Most of those 3,500 soldiers are scheduled to return home in a few months. We pray for their safe return.

Although Memorial Day was a good time to reflect on the level of sacrifice made by the men and women who serve in uniform, we should not let the names of those soldiers slip far from our minds.

Since hostilities began in Afghanistan in 2001, nearly 2,000 American troops have lost their lives there. Many of those were stationed right here in Alaska, a state that is now home to one fifth of the total American contingent stationed in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In fact, on Memorial Day, more than 180 members of the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176 Wing shipped out for its largest deployment since 2003.

We’re hopeful that this deployment will be one of the last in this current conflict. President Obama has said he’s making it a priority to end the war in Afghanistan. Mitt Romney has said he, too, wants to see a speedy transition to Afghan control of the country. Let’s hope that whoever is elected President later this year makes bringing our troops home quickly their top priority.

The best way we can honor those who have fallen in defense of this great nation is to bring home those who continue to serve.

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