Rothstein: A call for action this Memorial Day — and every day

Upfront, I would like to take a moment and recognize all those in our community who have served or are currently serving, as well as any who have lost a loved one in service. We are humbled by your sacrifices.

In 1982, President Reagan shared the following: “In America's cities and towns, flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries; public officials will speak the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor. In 1863, when he dedicated a small cemetery in Pennsylvania, Abraham Lincoln noted the swift obscurity of such speeches. Well, we know now that Lincoln was wrong about that particular occasion. His remarks commemorating those who gave their ‘last full measure of devotion’ were long remembered. But since that moment at Gettysburg, few other such addresses have become part of our national heritage — not because of the inadequacy of the speakers, but because of the inadequacy of words.”


Therefore, who am I to believe the words I share will have deeper meaning than those who have spoken before me? What I can share with you is what Memorial Day means to me as a man, a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a veteran, and most of all as an American.

In my view, it’s not a time to shy away from barbecues and the beginning of summer. Those two simple activities along with all the Memorial Day parades and dedications are out there giving us the opportunity to be together with family and friends. That opportunity for togetherness is WHY Memorial Day is so important and should be embraced. Our first obligation is to honor, remember, AND share. We honor and remember that our freedom is not free and that the courage of those men and women who gave their “last full measure of devotion” did so knowing with that purpose in mind.

I’ve been taught and often share the sentiment that the strength of our nation is born from the 1-2% of those that wear the uniform, and their strength comes from the families that support them every day with selfless courage and no hesitation. I take that sentiment a step further believing that the strength of our servicemen and women along with the families come from our community, and Carroll County has proven that with action.

I recently attended another packed house at our Carroll County Veterans Advisory Council where the continued services to our veterans and their families from needs in health care, transportation, housing, resiliency & wellness, etc are discussed and ideas are shared and acted on from our county, non-profit service organizations, and the community at large. It is a true testament in “Deeds not Words.”

It is because WE understand that Freedom is not Free; WE understand that loved ones go forward into harms way while others do not; we understand that separation from families during birthdays, graduations, and holidays is part of that sacrifice; WE understand that those who have given the “Ultimate Sacrifice” did so because of loyalty, honor and love. All of those ideas are why WE celebrate Memorial Day. It IS a time of reflection, paying tribute and honor those who have given their “last full measure of devotion,” AND an opportunity to understand WHY they did so taking their obligations freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

As we honor the memories and reflect on WHY those that served charged forward with the idea that our American values is worth the fight, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified, remembered, AND not end with memories and reflection on a single day. Let’s make this the catalyst for action. Remembering and memorializing those who have fallen are often done through annual ceremonies, dedications, plaques and flagpoles.

All of these are valuable; however, a real tribute to honor those memories can be done through everyday actions from a thank you; to contributions of time/service/dollars; to getting to know our neighbors, ensuring if they are a veteran, they are identified and aware of all the services available to them and their families; to getting involved in the community organizations that care for our Veterans and their families. For me, the WHY is simply put that those who gave their lives allow US to live free in a place where we can gather and thank those around us along with remembering those who have given the ultimate sacrifice while celebrating who we are as Americans in an awesome Carroll County community. Life is good.

Retired Col. Ed Rothstein is Carroll County’s commissioner for District 5.