It is believed that Gen. William Sherman - during the Civil War - coined the phrase, "War is hell."
That was more than 200 years and 29 U.S. military conflicts ago, and the words still ring true. We observe Memorial Day on Monday, when we remember all those in this country who have lost their lives in the hell of war. The numbers are mind-numbing: more than 116,000 in World War 1; 400,000 in World War II; 30,000 in Korea, more than 50,000 in Vietnam.
More than 6,400 U.S. military service members have died in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All these thousands of brave men and women paid with their lives to support a cause much greater than any of them individually - freedom. We likely would not enjoy the freedoms we do as a nation without them. It is easy to forget that, which is why it is important that at least one day is set aside to force us to remember.
Many of us will go about our family picnics, parades and other get-togethers this weekend without once giving the reason for the holiday a thought. Please try not to be among them. If even for a fleeting moment or two, think of what it might have been like to face a faceless or nameless enemy, hunker down in a swampy trench thousands of miles from home, wander through a jungle fraught with danger or face the prospect of an improvised explosive device detonating at the next turn in the dusty road.
The correlation between war and freedom is often not obvious. With a little thought on the subject, however, it can become more apparent. It often boils down to this: countries that don't value freedom, whose people are forced to live under despots, dictators and minus the rule of law, would just as soon force their will on us if we don't stand up to them.
The thousands who we honor on Memorial Day have done just that, to the benefit of the entire nation and each one of us living under its flag. That is a service not to be underestimated, and not to be taken for granted.
So thank a veteran today, and take some time to remember those who are no longer with us, who gave their lives for the nation and for us.