Memorial Day will have come and gone by the time you read this and for the second straight year, I blew it. You see, several years ago I made a pledge to remember Army Sgt. 1st Class Forrest Robertson each year with my column the week of Memorial Day. I could blame it on a lot of things, but they would all be meaningless excuses — the bottom line is, I am no different than most and got too wrapped up in my own life.
Sgt. 1st Class Robertson gave his life defending each of us in Afghanistan. I had the privilege to meet him on several occasions as his mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law go to church with me. His parents also happen to be my baler repair people, so our worlds touched on several occasions. Regretfully, I did not get to know him well enough and I wish I could go back a correct that mistake.
Each year Memorial Day Weekend is hailed as the start of summer and a three-day weekend to go to the lake and relax. It is, and if that is how you spent it, that is OK. It is OK if you remember why it is called Memorial Day. It is a time for us to pause and remember and honor those who, like Sgt. 1st Class Forrest Robertson paid the ultimate price. We must never forget the brave soldiers who gave their all to make sure that we can enjoy a three-day weekend in relative peace and quiet.
It has been about five and a half years since Sgt. 1st Class Robertson lost his life, and I have watched his family pick up the pieces and deal with the hole in their family. They have done a tremendous job and I am sure he would be proud of them for forging ahead, but I have also seen the sacrifice they have made for all of us. I attended his funeral and it was something that will influence me for the rest of my life. While I hope none of you ever have the chance to attend the funeral of a fallen hero, it does bring the cost of freedom home.
I consider what I do a noble profession. Without food and fiber, we could not function in this great nation. However, I could not operate my farm without the freedom that has been paid for with sacrifice and blood. We would not have the technology we do or the ability we have been blessed with without the protection we have been afforded by all the heroes throughout our nation’s history.
Just look at other places in the world that struggle to produce enough food for their people. They are areas of insecurity and war. They spend much of their time, energy and resources simply trying to survive every day, we don’t have that concern and that is because of heroes like Sgt. 1st Class Robertson.
Memorial Day is also to honor heroes who were blessed enough to come back to us. While I don’t know firsthand, I do know that their service also came with a price — a price that, for far too long, we did not understand or fully appreciate. Each one of them left a piece of their heart and soul with their fallen comrades and we should do everything in our power to take care of them and honor their sacrifice, too.
I watch the world news and see the areas of strife and turmoil and think about how that could be us if it were not for the brave men and women who go to those places to protect us. They willingly go where none of us want to and keep that danger at arm’s length. Our freedom to go, do and, most importantly, worship where we want is what should be front and center this Memorial Day.
Am I saying it is wrong to have family reunions, to go to the lake or to relax? Absolutely not — that is the peace, safety and freedom that has been won by our hero’s sacrifices. I am simply saying we need to take time out from those celebrations to take a moment to honor and remember. If you didn’t, take a moment anytime to go by a memorial. I would guess every town has something dedicated to the fallen.
Memorial Day should be more than the unofficial start of summer and it should be more than just three days a year. Maybe a late column about remembering our heroes wasn’t such a bad thing. We should never forget about the sacrifices that have been made for us. I know I am humbled and reminded each time I see Sgt. 1st Class Forrest Robertson’s family. It is a debt I can never repay but it is one that I will remain forever grateful and appreciative of. Thank you Sgt. 1st Class Robertson and all your fellow heroes, we will never forget and we will always cherish what you have done for us.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at email@example.com.