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Editorial: Keep focus on spirit of Memorial Day

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This is Memorial Day weekend; and while many eyes will be focused on the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade and the race itself, it is vitally important that we not forget the meaning of the holiday.

This morning, American Legion posts in Edinburgh, Franklin and Greenwood will offer biscuits-and-gravy breakfasts. The suggested $5 donations will go to a transportation fund to help veterans get to appointments at the VA medical center in Indianapolis.

Later, there will be memorial services for local veterans at five Greenwood cemeteries. At each, there will a setting of a memorial wreath, a ceremonial rifle volley and the playing of taps. In Franklin today, volunteers will place flags on the graves of veterans at Greenlawn Cemetery.

Then at 11 a.m. Monday, there will be a countywide observance on the Johnson County Courthouse lawn. This ceremony is among the most moving in the county.

There is a long history of military service connected to Johnson County.

For example, there are nearly three dozen Revolutionary War veterans buried in Johnson County, with some in each township.

They include Nathaniel Bell, who was born in Virginia, served in a unit from Washington County, Pa., and later traveled to Johnson County on the Wetzel Trace. In 1821, he took over the cabin built by pioneer Daniel Loper. He is buried in Lowe Cemetery in White River Township.

Another is Abner Hanks, a first cousin of Nancy Hanks, mother of Abraham Lincoln. He served in Virginia. He died in 1846 and is buried in Lick Springs Cemetery in Nineveh Township.

But they are just a start of a list that stretches across centuries of U.S. history, clear to the present day.

At last year’s courthouse service, World War II veteran Webber LaGrange told the audience that Americans must never forget because the war dead can’t ever be brought back. Those who died at war are gone forever except in memories. They sacrificed themselves for freedom that continues to benefit the world, he said.

Do not forget, he said.

“In spite of a 10-year, two-front war, many of our citizens stay wrapped up in their own little world and either consciously or unconsciously consider the war someone else’s problem,” he said. “It remains our duty to ensure that everyone who breathes the fresh air of freedom in the world today is reminded.”

That reminder of the continuing price of freedom was brought home this spring.

Sgt. Tristan M. Wade, 23, who grew up on the southside, died March 22 in Qarah Bagh District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Wade, a 2009 graduate of Southport High School, was assigned to the 573rd Clearance Company, 2nd Engineer Battalion, White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

We set aside Memorial Day to honor all who sacrificed for us, whether they died in battle, from the aftereffects of battle or later. It’s a small way to repay that debt of gratitude, to show that we do not forget.

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