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Soldiers’ sacrifices deserve special note on Memorial Day

As the nation approaches Memorial Day 2010 on Monday, news andupdates on natural and man-made disasters continue to dominatedaily headlines.

Much attention is fixed on the developing catastrophe in the Gulfof Mexico and efforts to contain millions of gallons of crude oilthat have been leaked following an April 20 rig explosion thatkilled 11 people.

On land, several Mississippi communities continue recovery work inthe wake of devastating tornadoes, and Nashville residents arecoping in the aftermath of a major flood in that community. EvenHaiti warrants a mention every now and then following a hugeearthquake that impacted that island nation several monthsago.

But another news event most deserving of attention – particularlythis weekend – involves the 1,000th U.S. soldier casualty this pastweek in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. The milestone death,according to an Associated Press tally, came as the result of aland mine.

One serviceman’s comments following the 1000th death epitomize thespirit of soldiers both now and in the past. Capt. Nick Ziemba, ofWilbraham, Mass., said the number would have no impact on troopmorale or operations.

“We’re going to continue to work,” Ziemba told the AP.

Throughout our history, soldiers and servicemen have worked andsacrificed to protect the freedoms upon which the United States wasfounded. Thousands have made the ultimate sacrifice, and we willremember their willingness to do so during special ceremoniesacross the nation Monday.

Far more often than not, soldiers’ sacrifices have been made on aforeign soil. Whether in Europe during World Wars I and II,Southeast Asia during Korea and Vietnam, or today in Iraq andAfghanistan in the ongoing War on Terror, conflicts have been wagedthere so they do not have be fought here.

But soldiers’ deaths suffered on U.S. soil, such as those in theFt. Hood tragedy, are no less significant and no less meaningful totheir family members. While their deaths were not as a directresult of combat, the soldiers still deserve our respect,admiration and appreciation for their willing service to ourcountry.

That raises another important service aspect that must beremembered.

Since 1973, the United States has been protected by anall-volunteer group of patriots. Unlike in other countries, thatmeans no government agency has forced this heroic assemblage of menand women into any kind of service.

In fact, the only requirement today is that all males between theages of 18 and 25 register for the Selective Service System in theevent a draft is ever needed again. At least being willing to serveseems a very small price to pay for the multitude of freedomsenjoyed by all U.S. citizens.

The 1,000th U.S. soldier’s death occurred during the currentconflict that is known as Operation Enduring Freedom. That title isappropriate on Memorial Day, because thanks to the service andsacrifice of our soldiers, our freedom endures.