Just remember | Opinion | The Press and Standard

by | May 29, 2016 5:00 pm

Last Updated: May 25, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Most Americans are looking forward to a long weekend this week. Grilling hot dogs, going to the beach, spending time with family on Memorial Day.
Hands up, ones who plan to attend the Memorial Day ceremony at the waterfall … Haven’t even thought about it, have you? You should. You owe that hot dog, that beach and your family to men like Ben Simmons of Walterboro.
There are pieces of Simmons still in the jungles of Vietnam — literally. Fingers, the front part of his right leg. And he considers himself lucky. He came home alive — not in a box like so many veterans.
Every day, Americans get up, drink coffee and go to work  because of men like Simmons — men who gave their lives and pieces of themselves (both mental and physical) to protect our way of life in the two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and now the Middle East. How many of you have said a prayer — even one in church on Sunday — for the soldiers who are still fighting for you today?
For Americans, wars have always seemed far away. We’ve never experienced an actual attack on our homeland to the extent other countries have. Our homes haven’t been blown apart, our children killed. Why? Because those who give up their lives to protect us prevent that from happening.
Even those serving in the military at home give a huge part of themselves to America. They move every 2-3 years to get more training in how to make war. They get deployed and have to leave their families at home alone while they go overseas to fight to keep us safe.
Why? Because men like Ben Simmons are protectors. They love this country — recognize that it offers a lifestyle and a system of beliefs like no other — and are willing to do whatever it takes to keep it safe.
And what do we give them in return? Here at home, the minimum wage in some places has just been increased to $15 an hour; a private entering the Army gets paid $18,378; a staff sergeant with six years of experience gets $35,578. So that staff sergeant who is getting shot at overseas gets just over $35,000 a year to support his family, while a burger-flipper is making $31,000.
Veterans get medical care from VA hospitals that are so corrupt that the government is closing them while they are being investigated. If soldiers choose to make a career of protecting America, they run the risk of being forced to retire just short of the date when they would get full benefits.
But thousands join the military anyway. They go to foreign lands and come home with memories that they never talk about. Ask a veteran what it’s like to be in battle, to watch as his friends die, and you see the same shadow pass over their eyes. The response is something like “we were doing what we were trained to do.” Those memories are locked away in a box most don’t ever open because war is not something they can describe to someone who’s not been there.
So why do they join and fight? Because someone has to. Because their country needs them. They are protectors who love America. Because if no one cared enough to protect us, we would all now be German, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese or Iranian.
Simmons said that even if he had to go through the same horrors again, if his country needed him, he’d fight for us again in a minute. Why? “Because I love my country.”
While you’re eating your hot dog with your family this Memorial Day, please remember that. Say a prayer for all of those who have fought, and are still fighting, so that you can live in the greatest country in the world, safe with your family.
Make time to say thank you to a veteran.

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