For the last several decades, American Legion Post 13 has performed Memorial Day services at local cemeteries to commemorate our nation’s fallen. This pandemic prohibits us from engaging in an organized Memorial Day service this year.

We hope you are able to visit these resting places individually or with family to remember their sacrifice.

Every crisis has new heroes. During the 9/11 attacks, they were the first responders running into burning and crumbling buildings as others ran out. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the most visible heroes are the health care professionals, who are saving others and risking their own lives while doing so.

These heroes have much in common with the people that we honor this weekend – America’s fallen veterans. They are men and women who sacrificed their own lives so others could live.

They are both elite and ordinary. They are elite in their sense of character. Giving your life so others can live is the ultimate definition of selfless. They are ordinary in the fact that they represent the diverse fabric of our country. They are rich and poor, male and female and come from every ethnicity and background. In short, they looked like any one of us.

As we celebrate the selfless performances of the health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, it brings to mind the military medics, doctors and nurses who sacrificed their lives while treating others on the battlefield. In fact, more field medics and corpsmen have received the Medal of Honor than any other military occupational specialty.

Not all of the heroes working during the pandemic are in health care. Grocers, delivery workers and drive-through restaurant employees are just a few of the folks we rely on to provide vital services for society while risking their own safety.

The military also has heroes in every occupational field. Truck drivers, cooks and clerks have all paid the ultimate price. At sea, on land or in the air — military service requires great risk.

Approximately one million men and women have given their lives in defense of our nation. Not all died from enemy fire. Some died from diseases rampant around war zones. Often, disease and accidents outnumbered casualties caused by enemy fire.

During the Spanish American War, 60 soldiers of the all-black 24th Infantry volunteered to serve as nurses. Thirty-six of them died from yellow fever. During World War I, the flu would kill 16,000 U.S. soldiers in France and another 30,000 in stateside camps.

These men and women could have isolated safely in their homes, but they knew they had an important job to do. A mission to accomplish.

Even when the enemy is an invisible virus or a microscopic germ, the sacrifices made are just as meaningful. The U.S. military has already lost service members to COVID-19.

This Memorial Day, as we honor those who fell in battle, let’s also pause to remember those who have sacrificed their lives while serving others. May God bless them, and may God bless you for remembering.

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