Today marks the 10th Memorial Day since the chaos of Sept. 11, 2001 — a moment that forever altered the course of thousands of American lives, not the least of which were those of the country's military personnel. Today, the sacrifice of those servicemen and women who never returned from the ensuing two wars is fresh. But so too should be the remembrance of the generations before them who also died in the name of freedom. Neither their sacrifice nor their families are forgotten.
Among those whom Floridians should remember today is Army Sgt. Dick A. Lee Jr., 31, of Orange Park, who found his calling as a dog handler. He was dispatched to Afghanistan to handle canines trained to sniff for explosives. On April 26, he was killed after his vehicle rolled over a roadside bomb. He left behind a wife, Katherine, and two sons, David and Joshua. Lee is one of at least 337 Floridians who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq since the wars' beginning. They join the more than 1.17 million Americans who have died in combat since the nation's founding. And Katherine Lee and her sons join the untold millions of surviving American families who have also shouldered the burden of war.
Such bloodshed helps explain the U.S. military's embrace of unmanned drones and other technology in hopes that casualties can be limited for future generations.
Many young Americans are hard pressed to recall a time when the United States was not at war. But with the war in Iraq ending last year and the war in Afghanistan slated to end in 2014, there is hope that even the youngest generation can soon become more accustomed to peace.
Memorial Day is particularly poignant this presidential election year in a nation so divided over partisan issues. But it is exactly the freedom to debate and determine the course of the nation that distinguishes both democracy and those who commit their lives to defending it. In honoring with pride and gratitude those who answered the call to defend America and paid with their lives, we reaffirm our principles as a nation and to one another.