Guest Column by Jim Maurer, American Legion

On May 28, we observe Memorial Day, a time of reflection and tribute to those veterans who have gone before us. We honor the memory of those who gave their lives in the service of our nation and departed to eternal rest.

Most military veterans and their families know the purpose and meaning of Memorial Day and why it is commemorated as a national holiday. But, sadly, much of the general citizenry views the occasion as another day off from work, a time of family gatherings, cookouts, lawn games, and the first venture of the year to the swimming pool.

This year Memorial Day will generate another distraction. With the presidential campaigns heating up, it has become an opportune time to politick either for or against the war in Iraq. The families of those killed in today's wars should not be led to believe that their loved ones died for a less-than-noble cause. They died because they took an oath to defend this nation and its Constitution. The sacrifice is the same, whether it's for a popular war or an unpopular one.

Memorial Day should be a time to bring Americans together to honor our fallen heroes of all wars, but the casualties of any contemporary conflict always generate the most grief and emotion.

If you choose to honor our departed comrades, visit a veterans' cemetery or the local grave sites of veterans. Lay a wreath or place an American flag at the headstone of a departed vet. Attend a parade without displaying divisive political signs. Send cards to the injured veterans who are recuperating in military and VA hospitals.

Remember why Memorial Day is special.

It's not about picnics or trips to the beach. It's not about making pro- or anti-war statements. And it shouldn't be about supporting political candidates. It's about honor, duty and sacrifice.

It's about people who have decided that the United States is worth dying for.

Freedom is not free. On Memorial Day, America salutes all military personnel, both past and present. We commemorate those who have fallen in service to the nation.

God Bless America and all who defend her.

Editor's note: Jim Maurer is the second vice commander and past commander for Hudson American Legion Post 464.