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Life as Performance Art

By G.C. Stoppel
This Memorial Day I will wear a small Sons of the American Revolution medal on my lapel.
Unlike many who will attend this Monday’s local commemorations, I didn’t earn it the hard way. That was done by my seventh-generation grandfather Joseph Wells, who was a teen-ager when fought he alongside Gen. “Lighthorse” Harry Lee in Virginia during the American Revolution.
I got a free ride because my sister, the family genealogist, did the research to satisfy SAR requirements. All I had to do was sign papers and write a check.
Pvt. Wells survived and after the war he and his family migrated west into the wilderness of Kentucky and Tennessee, then Indiana and Illinois. There were hundreds of thousands like them.
This medal reminds me of what millions of Americans have done over the past 250 years and my responsibility to keep building up this country.
Each year we have four patriotic holidays. The first, Armed Forces Day just a few days ago, is when we remember men and women now in our armed forces. On July 4, the third such day, we have fun, parades, fireworks and more. Nov. 11 marks Veterans Day, the fourth, when we honor those who interrupted their lives to serve our nation in the armed forces.
Memorial Day, when we recognize those who served and did not come home, is different. They gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today. Rows of their American flag-topped white marble graves can be found both here and around the world. Others are buried at sea, and still others have final resting places known only to God.
We come for parades and observances to honor those not here except in spirit. It’s our sacred duty.
At Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is attended around the clock by trained honor guards, even when a hurricane swept through the area a few years ago. Told they could stand down by their commander these guards refused.
Russian dictator Vladimir Putin thought months ago his forces could roll through and conquer neighbor Ukraine, unleashing a brutal war there. He and billionaire oligarch minions are learning a painful lesson about what happens when they fight patriots willing to fight to the death to defend their country — a patriotism that once again bears a cost.
We take no joy in anyone’s death and suffering. What we celebrate is keeping the faith of Americans whose sacrifice made it possible for us to be here today.
They paid the ultimate price for our right to assemble, worship or not as we choose and more rights we take for granted that nonetheless come with responsibilities.
Recognition is empty if we don’t follow it up with the action that keeps building up this country. It means extending the hand of friendship not just to those we know, but those different from ourselves.
It means working harder and complaining less. It means doing good in our communities and following through to the end.
So we continue the template stablished by those who died for the greatest country the world has known.

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