Destin, Fla.—Happy Memorial Day from Destin where the annual SEC Spring Meetings get underway on Tuesday. We’ll get to that tomorrow. Today I want to share a personal experience that gave me a renewed sense of what this day is all about.
Back in January Maria and I were traveling in England and spent an entire day in Cambridge. It is, of course, one of the great university towns of the world. It is where Charles Darwin studied, where 80 Nobel prize winners attended, where DNA was first modeled, and where the atom was first split. The place is a little intimidating.
But my lasting memory of that day was a visit to the American World War II cemetery on the outskirts of Cambridge. Here a link to the site:
Here is the entry from my diary back to friends and family in States:
“If you come here, make the World War II Memorial Cemetery the last stop on your tour. The cemetery contains the remains of 3,182 people who lost their lives in various campaigns in the war. Cambridge/London was the hub for the major Atlantic Air campaign into Germany and France. On a huge stone wall, called The Tablets of the Missing, are the names of 5,127 military personnel who were declared missing in action and were never recovered. Among the names on the wall is that of Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., the oldest of the nine Kennedy children, who was first in line to become President of the United States before his plane was shot down. Kennedy was only 29 when his plane exploded over Suffolk, England, on Aug. 12, 1944.
There is also the name of Alton G. Miller. We know him as Glenn Miller, the big band leader whose plane disappeared on Dec. 15, 1944, as he was flying from England to Paris to entertain the troops. Neither his plane nor his body was ever found.
Like the World War II Memorial and Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C, this place will make you think. Arthur Brookes, one of the curators, was nice enough to give us a tour and provide all of these details. This military cemetery and many others located in Europe are run by the American Battle Monument Commission (www.abmc.gov). The Commission was formed in 1923. The new Secretary of the ABMC is former Georgia Senator Max Cleland, who was appointed by President Obama last May.”
We were the only visitors in the cemetery on that cold, January day as the sun began to set. I began to think about the extraordinary sacrifices these people made and the fact that they were never able to return home to their families. I thought about all of the family members who had traveled here to see their loved ones. All of those memories came back last night and so I decided that I wanted to share this with you.
Yeah, times are tough. The economy is bumpy and a lot of people are hurting. We’ve got a helluva mess out there in the Gulf and nobody seems to know how to plug a stupid hole. We’ve got a political system that is so divided that it seems like they can’t do a damned thing but point fingers at each other. There are people out there who want to blow up vans in Times Square, for God’s sake. I know. We’ve got a lot going on just taking care of ourselves.
But today, let’s take a break from all that. Today let’s think of people like Pat Tillman, who could have made a bunch of money in the NFL but walked away in 2002 to serve his country at a time of war. He made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed serving in Afghanistan in 2004. In December Tillman will be posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. It will take place at a black tie dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Bet there won’t be a dry eye in that room.
Let’s think about the thousands of our best and brightest who have gone to the Middle East and are in harm’s way not just today, but every day. Some of them, like the 5,127 men and women on that wall outside of Cambridge, will not be coming home.
We can think about our problems tomorrow. Today, let us be grateful for how many people have sacrificed so that we can have fun arguing about football. Let us be grateful that, for all its many shortcomings, we still live in the greatest country on the face of the Earth.
On the flight back from England I remember that once we got into American air space the pilot came on the PA and said: “Welcome to the United States of America.” Chills went up and down my arms. It was good to be home. I thought about all those people in the Cambridge cemetery who had made it possible for me to feel this way.
May God continue to Bless America and may we always remain grateful for His blessings.
Happy Memorial Day to you and your family.
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