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MT. ZION â€“ "Today, as we approach Memorial Day, we remember and honor those who served our country and are no longer among the living, including Ron Guilyard and all those whose Gold Star families are with us today." With these words, Larry Holman, president of the Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America, began his address as the main speaker at the Memorial Day ceremony at Mt. Zion Historical Park on Saturday afternoon.
Referring to Memorial Day as "a time for reflection, respect, and humility," Holman remarked that the occasion calls for individuals to "cherish the memory of those whose selflessness inspires us to continue in service to each other and to our fellow citizens."
"On the last Monday of May of each year, we remember the bravery of those few who stepped into the danger and responded to a calling greater than themselves. They demonstrated agape love - unconditional, unreserved, and spiritual. There's no greater sacrifice that one can offer than his or her own life. Memorial Day honors the men and women who have given all for their country and for freedom. It is more than a three-day weekend," Holman said.
Holman reflected on all of the soldiers who have given their lives for their country throughout the nation's history. He estimated that over 25,000 patriots lost their lives during the American Revolutionary War, over 625,000 died throughout the Civil War, more than 6,600 died during the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, over 116,000 died during World War I, more than 405,000 died during World War II, over 36,000 died during the Korean War, over 58,000 died during the Vietnam War, and over 6,000 died during the War on Terror from 2001 to the present.
"If you tally up these numbers I read off, we're up to about 1.3 million, and this doesn't include all those lost in skirmishes and random actions of terrorism," Holman said.
"All those who gave their lives are heroes," he added. "Each of those heroes deserves to be remembered."
Noting that "this Memorial Day we are still a nation at war," Holman remarked that today, "many Americans do not have a connection with the service of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country."
"Only about one percent of the citizens are carrying the burden, while the other 99 percent are at the mall," Holman said. "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 collectively remembered on Memorial Day."
In addition to remembering those who gave their lives, Holman also discussed the importance of helping those soldiers who were "willing to give the last full measure of devotion but, for the grace of God, were spared."
"Many of our warriors, when they return, have difficulties with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other psychological and physical ailments. Too many have trouble getting employment and maintaining relationships. Some self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, while others are prescribed medications that do more harm than good. Some become homeless. Some run afoul of the law and become incarcerated. Some, about 18 per day, take their own lives, often while waiting for an appointment with the VA," Holman said.