Yesterday, my family and I stopped at a local Veteran’s Memorial Park, in Avon Lake, Ohio, to honor some of our fallen soldiers and celebrate Memorial Day weekend.  My wife and I want our kids to learn to appreciate and understand the sacrifice that many have made for our country and what that means.  We read the several plaques honoring former Avon Lake residents who fought in several of the wars and battles in the last century.  One of them paid tribute to Army Capt. Michael Medders, who was killed in active duty after a suicide bombing in Baqubah, Iraq in 2008.  Mike was 25.  I told my family that as a college student, I coached Mike and his freshman high school football team in 1997 (Mike would go on to earn All-Ohio honors as a senior, certainly through none of my efforts…). Then in 2002 I coached against Mike in baseball; we were both coaches of Thurman Munson baseball teams.

I can’t claim Mike as a friend, but I knew him, coached him, and competed against him.  And to have someone like that die while fighting for our country against the spread of hatred or tyranny or oppression leaves an impact on your soul.  Many soldiers, I told my kids, didn’t have to go to war – they volunteered to serve our country and protect our freedom and our way of life.  And even the soldiers that didn’t volunteer, those that were drafted, did what they were asked to do, heroically, in unimaginable conditions, for us.

Since the end of the Revolutionary War, 646,596 American troops have died in battle.  That’s more than six Rose Bowls of human beings, or the equivalent of the population of Memphis, TN.  The vast majority died young, long before having the opportunity to marry the love of their life, hold their first child, coach a football team, run a business, and many other things we tend to take for granted. And we get to do these things, because those 646,596 men and women laid down their lives for freedom.  So as we unplug today and enjoy our day with family and friends, take a moment to think about Mike or anyone else in your community who made the ultimate sacrifice in battle.  

“From these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” –Abraham Lincoln