AMERICANS are observing a Memorial Day weekend like none before -- in the midst of a global pandemic as the official death toll in this nation hovers at 100,000.
In years to come, with the gift of hindsight, the COVID-19 losses will come into sharper focus. Generations who are going through this pandemic will tell of their experiences, the shutdowns, precautions, financial turmoil and deaths. All of those experiences will be remembered, which is appropriate.
With that in mind, Americans should remember the 1.3 million men and women of the U.S. military who have died serving their country.
As the successor to Decoration Day, established in 1868 to honor the more than 650,000 fallen Union and Confederate soldiers of the Civil War, Memorial Day is a time to honor all of America's war dead.
The official proclamation was issued 152 years ago this month by Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur.
In issuing his proclamation, Logan noted the central purpose of the observance:
"Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
"If our eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us."
This weekend marks the 18th consecutive Memorial Day when our nation has been at war, which should give us pause.
U.S. and coalition military forces entered Afghanistan in October 2001, a little more than a month after members of a terrorist group operating out of that country with the permission of the Taliban government engineered the traumatic Sept. 11 attacks on American soil that left more than 3,000 civilians dead.
It took only a few months for allied forces to drive the leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban from the country's major cities. But it has not proved to be the kind of war that would bring about a quick or clean ending. It surpassed Vietnam as America's longest war 10 years ago.
The opinions that Americans may hold about a particular armed conflict must never be allowed to diminish our respect for those who have fought and fallen in service to their country.
Through all of this, our nation's young people have been undeterred in answering the country's call to enter military service with the same patriotic spirit as countless soldiers, sailers and Marines of generations past.
While we stop to pay our respects and reflect on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation, let us also be grateful for those who continue to step forward to defend the United States of America.