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Sarasota News Leader May 31, 2013 OPINION itary is a tiny percentage of the population. The burden increasingly falls on the poor. Today's enlisted ranks are sprinkled with immigrants who hope to earn their citizenship with an honorable discharge, or even earn it while staying a professional soldier, sailor, Marine or airman. Page 66 Memorial Day in Sarasota has become a prequel to the Fourth of July. If you videotaped the parades, who could tell them apart? Of course there is the somber ceremony at J.D. Hamel Park on the bayfront; I, too, spoke there once and read a poem about the poppies in Flanders. The "all-volunteer Army" has become the job But this is starting to look a lot like Christmas, a holiday divorced from its roots. Just of last resort for many, but not for all. as the Magi's gifts became a multi-billion-dolI come from a family of survivors. My dad was lar excuse for excess, so has Memorial Day a combat engineer in the Battle of the Bulge; become just a day off from work, along with my maternal grandfather was a doughboy in "Let's take the kids to see a parade." Never the trenches of World War I. I was a paratroop- mind the stark white crosses and subdued er in Cold War Germany. And our son tonight bronze plaques over the bodies of America's finest who gave their lives for their fellows. is an officer candidate in Newport, RI. Yes, I have an uncle who went down as a sailor in the Pacific and a high-school amigo who fell on a grenade, whom we buried in the prairie one Christmas long ago. Were all of you waving flags for them on the parade route? Celebrating their deaths? "Raise your hand if you knew a veteran who died in the service." Once upon a time, no matter where you were, hands would go up at that remark. But today, nobody knows, and I wonder if anybody cares. % Dead at 20, he was the high-school class clown. He died a hero, with medals to prove that. Photo by Mike O'Brien

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