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Al Etkin • Reprinted from the May 25, 2007 edition
Posted 5/24/24

The world was a different place back in 2007 when this Guest Editorial was first penned by the Past Director of the Sullivan County Veterans Service Agency, the late Al Etkin.  

However, …

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The world was a different place back in 2007 when this Guest Editorial was first penned by the Past Director of the Sullivan County Veterans Service Agency, the late Al Etkin. 

However, our climate is not so unrecognizable that this message imparted to us 17 years ago does not remain unequivocally true for our great nation today. As we observe Memorial Day, please reflect on the words of someone who, even back then, held the highest respect for all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.


Memorial Day is the most sacred of all veteran

holidays. Paul A. Morin, National Commander of the American Legion, from the great state of Massachusetts, offered the thought that “As we lay down wreaths and salute fallen heroes at cemeteries and monuments around the world this month, no more than four U.S. veterans from among 4.7 million Americans who served in World War I are known to be alive. On March 2nd, “Taps” was played and “In Flander’s Fields” was recited before a crowd of about 200 who attended the funeral of Howard V. Ramsey of Oregon, last known combat veteran of World War I. He was nearly 109. Soon they will all be gone, having left a legacy of strength, unity and patriotism.”

The Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Gary Kurpis, remarked that “Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. Far too often, the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms all Americans enjoy.

Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew. That’s why they are all collectively remembered on one special day. This should be regarded as a civil obligation, for this is a national debt that can only be truly repaid by individual Americans.

By honoring the nation’s war dead, we preserve their memory and thus their service and sacrifice in the memories of future generations. Now, more than in recent years, the enduring relevance of Memorial Day should be clearly evident. With two wars underway, the public has no excuse not to remember.”

The National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans, Norman Rosenshein, sends the message that “those who have died and those who have returned deserve more than a half-staff salute.” Whether we look upon this day as Decoration Day or Memorial Day, and whether we honor the day on May 30 or the last Monday of May, the tribute is the same. Our fallen heroes of all wars and conflicts this nation has been involved in must never be forgotten. It is for us, the living, to pick up the torch of freedom and carry it proudly for our future generations… our children and grandchildren… the inheritors of our great republic.”

Our wartime veterans fought to preserve the nation, and our peacetime veterans serve to support what our wartime veterans fought for. We Americans have a continual responsibility to see to it that the meaningful words patriotism, duty, service, dedication, honor and caring are held as high virtues. The significance of attending Memorial Day services is a time-honored tradition and the placing of flags at the gravesites of our departed veterans must continue to be a foremost obligation.

When Memorial Day services are conducted each year, the very agenda of the program signifies the reverence and respect we have for those of our fallen.

From the salute to the colors, the invocation by clergy, the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, the recognition of our veterans organizations and their leaders, our acknowledgement of our public officials, our keynote speaker of the day, and our appreciation to the future leaders of our land… the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Brownies. The laying of a wreath and the rendering of the traditional “Taps,” and, once again, the clergy for a meaningful benediction to bless all…especially our veterans and their families. 

Additionally, there are some very special veterans

that need to be recognized now, not after they are gone. I refer to our ex-POW’s, our Pearl Harbor survivors, and our Medal of Honor recipients. Then too, our Gold Star mothers and fathers deserve special recognition… they bear the sacrifices of their sons and daughters.

This Memorial Day is especially meaningful because of the approximately 3,400 military who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Throughout Sullivan County this Memorial Day, services will be conducted in many local communities by our Veterans Posts and Auxiliaries, and our County Service will be held at the Sullivan County Veterans Cemetery in Liberty. It will be the 23rd service conducted since the cemetery was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1984. It began with 17 veterans interred at that time and has grown since to over 865 veterans and, with spouses, to a total now of 1091.

This Memorial Day fly your flag, attend a service and remember with love and resolve the finest category of people this nation has to offer… our veterans.

God Bless our veterans and God Bless the United States of America!


Al Etkin, Past Director of the Sullivan County Veterans Service Agency


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