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Plaque at Shelter Cove, VA. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

This bronze plaque at Shelter Cove, CA, faces the Pacific. It stands on the very edge of the U.S. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

I live in freedom in the United States, and I have generations of Americans to thank for that.

On Memorial Day, I am living in gratitude for all those who fought tyrants around the world, so we could live in peace here.

The U.S. has had more than two centuries of war, and I am wondering what that is like, to have been born here, and to ponder all the lives lost, all those wounded, in the name of freedom.

I am wondering about all the families, who sacrificed too, by kissing their sons and daughters — or fathers or mothers — goodbye, not knowing if that was, indeed, their final farewell.

So many lost …

When I speak to veterans of WWII, I am impressed by their sacrifices, for all they relinquished to save the world from madness.  I listen to their stories, and wonder what it was like to be a young man, then, to give up everything to fly over the Pacific, to fight in the mud and cold in Europe, for the good of their country, for the good of many countries.  I am thinking, too, of all the young women who stood up to their parents, so they could leave home and work in hospitals, seeing the wrath of war, every day.

So much pain …

In any war, the youth of America left families and jobs and the chance of marriage and babies to fight strangers because their country asked them to serve.  Many returned home broken.  Many returned to get married, have those babies, and create prosperity for their families and their communities.

Millions, of course, did not survive.

On Memorial Day, volunteers have planted white crosses and flags by the thousands in our neighborhood.

I do not know if they represent those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, or other conflicts too.

For me, they’re a reminder that many lives have been lost overseas, and many lives have been lost here at home, so that I can live in freedom and peace.

My gratitude, always, for those who sacrificed so much.

Meet Richard Overton, America’s oldest veteran, at 107.  Listen to his words, so many years after his 1942-45 service in the South Pacific.  Some estimate WWII vets are dying at the rate of 800 a day in the U.S.