Northwest NEWS

May 24, 1999


Guest editorial

Remembering the reason for Memorial Day

by Butch Miller

   Memorial Day is the day we remember and honor those who lost their lives fighting for our nation. The men and women we remember on Memorial Day demonstrated the highest form of faith in the triumph of good over evil.

   Just as they had a mission, we, too, have a mission: To teach the young people of today to respect America's values.

   History teaches us that our faith in freedom--readily backed up by our resolve to defend freedom--has made America, and the world, a better place. Today, 179 of the world's 193 sovereign states elect their lawmakers. That means the earth is covered by democracy in greater proportion than water; it's covered by 93 percent democracy. Clearly, those who made the supreme sacrifice for freedom died for a victorious cause.

   History teaches us that the world will never run out of threats to freedom. Hitler is no more. We won the Cold War. But our world must contend with Milosevic in Kosovo and Hussein in Iraq. China has an up side and a down side--a growing appreciation for the free market, but a disturbing aspiration for nuclear and strategic supremacy. Clearly, future generations may be called upon again to sacrifice for freedom.

   If we teach young people correctly, they will willingly serve in the U.S. armed forces, the defense of freedom will continue and democracy will flourish worldwide. I often tell others about Danny Flynn, a young Marine. His story helps me reaffirm a young person's faith in the perseverance of a free people.

   Private First Class Flynn drove a personnel carrier during the war in Vietnam. He had been in Vietnam for 19 days when he volunteered to take a sick buddy's tour of duty. On that fateful night, May 25, 1968, a Cambodian rocket killed Flynn. He was 20 years old.

   Flynn was a native of Kings Park, New York. He was buried with full military honors at Pinelawn Cemetery there. He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. A Kings Park baseball field was named in his honor.

   But the most important tribute to Flynn is carried out by a local middle school. They keep hope alive by teaching young people how important Memorial Day is.

   Every year, 5th and 6th graders write letters to Flynn's mother. Through the battlefield death of Danny Flynn, new generations are learning about patriotic values.

   Their notes to Flynn's mother are short, but poignant. "When I say the Pledge of Allegiance, I will remember Danny Flynn," writes one student. "Bringing books to the Kings Park Library will help me focus on the sacrifice Danny Flynn made for me," reflects another.

   The children of that middle school wouldn't understand Memorial Day if someone hadn't taught them that freedom isn't free. They continue to learn that America's fallen heroes expressed their faith in democracy by committing the most selfless act of all.

   Each of us must instill in young people the importance of Memorial Day. If we do, America's faith in freedom, justice, and democracy will remain intact. So, too, will the blanket of freedom that our honored dead bequeathed to us.

Butch Miller is the national commander of the 2.8 million-member American Legion.