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Thank you for your selfless service

May 31, 2010
By MIKE MATHISON, Sports editor

Happy Memorial Day.

Thank you to all who have served, are serving and will serve this great country.

You are why this is the place people come to for hope and a new lift. I don't hear of too many people breaking down the borders to get into other countries.

We can all lament about what it is becoming, or what we all think might be around the corner, but we are privileged to be citizens of the United States of America.

There is no greater country.

The men and women of the armed forces are performing one of the greatest acts of selflessness there are in this world.

I know I chose not to do it and so have millions others.

But, millions more have taken that selfless act to another level.

Millions more have done what they felt they were called to do - fight for everyone's freedom.

It is because of that freedom this is the greatest nation in the world.

It's far from perfect, but that's what makes it great.

We get a say every two, four or six years to elect new leaders.

Selfless service is paramount in this nation.

It's what makes this nation grow.

Selfless service is doing the right thing at the right time with no thought of self game.

It is taking the appropriate measures because it is the right thing to do.

Selfless service extends far beyond our circle of family and friends.

Selfless service does not just happen in the armed forces.

It should be a daily occurrence for all of us.

It goes from holding a door open while a family of 12 walks through or allowing that person with four items to go ahead of you in the checkout line.

It goes from mowing your neighbor's lawn just because to allowing the person in the car to turn left.

A selfless act means your ego is in check.

I don't see too many military personnel wave their arms and say 'Hi mom.'

There is no whining about playing time in the armed forces.

For that, I am grateful.

I am guessing not one parent has walked up to a general after a battle and asking, 'why isn't my child on the front line more often?'

And if the answer is, 'because your child does not listen and is not a very good soldier,' what is the response?

None because that question is never asked.

Memorial Day is observed in honor of the nation's armed services personnel killed in wartime.

Local observances became widespread throughout our one nation after the Civil War, a four-year battle, ended with more than 600,000 casualties.

They all died, on both sides, for freedom.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thousands of people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery on that May 30, to honor the dead and observe Decoration Day. It was a day to decorate the more than 20,000 graves of the dead from the Civil War in the cemetery.

After World War I, Memorial Day was changed to honor the dead from all American wars.

The United States Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971.

In the fall of 1864, President Lincoln was informed that a Boston widow, Lydia Bixby, had lost five sons in the Civil War. President Lincoln wrote to her:

Executive Mansion

Washington, Nov. 21, 1864

To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully

A. Lincoln

The Star Spangled Banner Lyrics

By Francis Scott Key 1814

He was inspired to write this song when, on Sept. 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore's Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812.

The song eventually became our national anthem.

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:

'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war's desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

So, folks, remember this when the song is played at sporting events all over this Valley and this nation.

When you see kids who can't shut up during this song, please rebuke them and, if their parents don't say a word to the kids and you have to, rebuke the parents, also.

If you see adults who can't shut up, rebuke them, if their children don't do it first.

I understand how we can become immune to the song and its history.

But, because of the blood of millions of men and women who have fought and died for this great country and our privilege to hear this song, it is our duty to make sure we remember why and pass along the information.

Stand up.

Shut up.

Be respectful.

It's not that hard.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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