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State commander: Remember the dead, thank the living

June 02, 2010 - "Since 1868, we have come together in our communities to put flowers and flags on the graves of our fallen heroes. For whether a war is popular or not, the sacrifice is the same."

Those were the opening words of Carnie Jackson, commander of the American Legion Department of Michigan, as he addressed the crowd gathered for Memorial Day in downtown Oxford's Centennial Park.

"I believe our fallen heroes are with us today," he said. "They know that we are here remembering their sacrifice for our great nation."

Jackson urged the crowd to look to our nation's fallen soldiers for "guidance" in the present and the future.

"They have left a legacy of freedom and courage," he said.

The life of an American soldier is full of contradictions.

"They love America so they spend long years in foreign lands, far from her shores," Jackson said. "They defend our right to be free, yet yield their individuality in that cause. Perhaps the most amazing of all, they value life, (but) so bravely ready themselves to die in service of our country."

Despite all the changes the American military's gone through in more than two centuries of service, Jackson said, "The valor, dignity and courage of the men and women in uniform remain the same."

"From Valley Forge to Desert Storm, from San Juan Hill to Operation Joint Guard, the fighting spirit of the American soldier permeates the history of our nation," he said. "Our soldiers fight and die, not for the glory of war, but for the price of freedom."

Looking to the future, Jackson said, "We know that in the years to come more brave souls will sacrifice their lives for America."

"In today's world, freedom comes cloaked in uncertainty," he said. "America still relies on her sons and daughters to defend her liberty. The cost of independence remains high, but we are willing to pay it. We do not pay it gladly, but we pay it with a deep reverence and thanks to those who have sacrificed their lives for America."

On a personal note, Jackson relayed his own experience returning home from the war in Vietnam.

He was told to make sure he did not wear his uniform because of the anti-war demonstrators outside the base.

"I was 21 years old, I had served my country honorably and I had to sneak back into her," he said. "Not right."

But when his parents picked him up at the airport in Detroit, his father, who was a World War II veteran and Bronze Star recipient for action in the Philippines, shook his hand and stated how proud he was of him.

At that point, "the demonstrators didn't matter" anymore.

"If you have somebody that's serving right now in your family, you make sure you tell them you're proud of them," Jackson said. "If you see a veteran, tell them thank you because they could have paid the ultimate sacrifice and they were willing to. To our veterans here today, the American Legion says thank you and welcome home. We are proud of you."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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