Memorial Day 2013

[Originally published at BackwardNC]


You probably know the sentence; it has become somewhat of a cliche. It's often attributed to Voltaire, but apparently actually was penned by his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall. It's generally some variation of "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

and people like me use it in debates to make a point about freedom and liberty. Cliche or not, it's a powerful sentiment; although European in origin, it expresses a uniquely American thought.

Then there is a special breed of people who don't just say or type those words -- they live them. They enlist in military service, and every single day, they defend -- to the death if necessary -- your and my freedoms. Not because they might happen to agree with our viewpoints, but just because we were fortunate to have been born Americans.

They don't check first to see if they agree with what I said before they go into combat to fight for my right to say it. They don't choose to defend only Republicans, or only Democrats, or only Christians, or only straight people (and so on) before they unquestioningly follow orders that could put them in harm's way. They go off to war, or to a potentially dangerous training exercise, to defend -- to the death -- all of the rights and freedoms for all Americans.

They really do, really did and really will defend people they don't agree with. They really do, really did and really will die so that we can be free. Because they really do, really did and really will care that much about America and Americans.

They're the men and women of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Today we salute them and honor them -- the fallen heroes and those who get up every day ready to defend -- to the death if necessary -- all of us.

Many inspiring and powerful things have been written and said on Memorial Day, and now is a good time to reflect on some of them.

And make sure that we say:


[Related video at BackwardNC]


Not to quibble

But I have a hard time with those who seem to confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day. They are two separate and distinct holidays, with separate and distinct purposes.

Memorial Day is a day to honor the memory of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Today I remember my uncle, ADJ1 Toney Barnett of Union County, SC, who died in the tragic flight deck fire on USS Forrestal on July 29, 1967 in the Tonkin Gulf. I also remember 38 of my Dad's shipmates, who perished on USS Albert W. Grant at Surigao Straits on October 24, 1944. Dad survived, and went to as many of his ship's reunions as he could, until he passed away in 2005. I remember my Naval Academy classmate, LT Jim Surch, who died on October 23, 1983, along with 240 others in the terrorist attack on the Marine barracks at Beirut airport.

If you want to honor their service, write your Senators and Representatives and demand full funding for veterans' health care. Demand that PTSD not be pigeonholed as we ignored the effects of Agent Orange for decades.

Kevin Brock
US Naval Academy Class of '77
US Navy veteran


The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Point Taken...

...although current Memorial Day parades and ceremonies, where we do indeed remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, often involve and honor living veterans and current service members as well.

Thank you for your service to our country and I join you in honoring the memory of your loved ones and those with whom they served. My letter to Sen. Hagan is on its way.

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014