May 22, 2007

sheriff froehlich


Remember Our Fallen
By Ralph Froehlich

The arrival of The Moving Wall Vietnam War Memorial in Union County this month was a timely reminder of what Memorial Day is truly about: Honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

The half-size replica of the Washington, DC Vietnam Veterans Memorial was a spectacular sight on the beautiful grounds of Liberty Hall Museum at Kean University in Union. Although smaller than the original, the shiny black Moving Wall bears the names of all the U.S. military men and women who lost their lives during the Vietnam War—including the 1,560 from New Jersey. It is truly a moving memorial.

Looking upon The Wall stirs up a strong mix of emotions: anger, frustration and sadness. There is also guilt. Why am I here and they are not? And there is simply why. But there is also a tremendous feeling of pride. We should just feel proud. Not good, but proud.

I am sure these are some of the emotions felt when people placed flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868, the first time Memorial Day was observed.

Thousands more Americans have given their lives in service to our country in the wars since then and they deserve the same honor and respect as those whose names grace The Wall. Today, the men and woman in our Armed Forces continue to sacrifice it all in Afghanistan and Iraq. All of our fallen deserve our prayers, thoughts and respect.

Sadly, traditional observance of Memorial Day has faded over the years in some places. Some Americans have forgotten the day is a time to honor and reflect on the sacrifices made by Americans in combat, and not a day to celebrate the start of summer. Many people will be down the shore or firing up the barbeque.

Memorial Day is a perfect time to sit down with our children and grandchildren and teach them about these brave Americans. They should know the terror and pains of war but they should also learn and understand the pride and respect there is for those who made the extreme sacrifice for our nation.

The Moving Wall Vietnam War Memorial has been taken down, packed up, and is on its way to its next destination in Maine but its absence from here is not an excuse to ignore our heroes on Memorial Day.

Memorial Day gives us a three-day weekend to enjoy but time should be taken to remember those Americans who went off to war and never came back. Some ways to observe Memorial Day are: visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes, visit war memorials or attend memorial services, fly the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon, fly the POW/MIA flag as well and be a part of the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day.

Ralph Froehlich is the Union County Sheriff and served
in the United States Marine Corps.