To the point week of 5-28-09

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IT WAS AN INTERESTING day on Monday as Switzerland Countians made their way to the lawn of the Switzerland County Courthouse for the annual Memorial Day observance.

There had been a steady drizzle throughout the morning, but about 10:45 a.m. – 15-minutes before the start of the ceremony – an absolute downpour hit the county.

A large sign at the entrance to the Veterans Memorial directed everyone to the Historic Hoosier Theater; and as I tried to drop my wife off in front of the theater before going to park, we both realized that the river of rushing water going down Ferry Street towards the river wasn’t going to allow her to get to the sidewalk.

Some maneuvering around to Cheapside Street solved that problem; and entering the theater I was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned out.

Each year the event draws a larger and larger number of people, all wishing to pay their respects to the men and women who gave of themselves in duty to this country.

I was glad that the ceremony had been moved inside; but I was also taken with the notion that – perhaps – the best way to honor those heroic men and women would have been for us to stand outside in that driving rain and watch the ceremony.

It would have been uncomfortable. We would have all been wet and miserable – and maybe some would not have come or would have chosen to sit in their vehicles and watch from a distance.

What was impressed upon me, however, is that the men and women whom we gathered to honor never had that luxury.

They lived and fought in all sorts of conditions. Heavy rain or freezing snow never gave them the opportunity to delay their duty.

They braved the weather and elements while bravely protecting us. Many of the veterans in attendance on Monday probably stood a post or completed a mission or fought a battle in conditions just as miserable as we saw on Monday morning.

They did it because it was their duty. It was their responsibility. It was their calling.

It wasn’t their choice.

They also didn’t have the choice to stand off in the distance and observe war from a safe distance. They couldn’t sit in their car, dry and warm and safe, and watch all that was going on.

They also didn’t have the choice to stay home and sleep in and watch a little television.

To veterans all over our nation, Memorial Day was more than a long weekend. It is a national holiday that was earned by the bravery and the blood of hundreds of thousands of soldiers – and that holiday is still being earned today around the world.

I understand why our veterans chose to move the observance indoors on Monday – and I was overwhelmed by the turnout from the community.

Switzerland County supports its veterans and its veterans’ observances more than anyplace I’ve ever been, and we should be proud of the sacrifices made to allow us the freedoms that we enjoy.

But as I left on Monday, the rain has subsided a bit and the sun was peeking out from behind some clouds. I thought about how thankful I was that someone chose to stand in the rain and the snow and in harm’s way so that I could live in the greatest country on earth.

And I do appreciate it.

Even if it had meant standing in a rainstorm to say it.