Memorial Day is Not Just About a Barbecue!

Every year barbecue grills are fired up to pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of brave men and women who have served our country.

That sounds bad, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's the truth. People all across the country plan their weekend at the lake or the beach, boating, camping, swimming, relaxing, shopping, sleeping, enjoying a day off. And there's nothing wrong with that, but Memorial Day is more than just the unofficial kick-off of the summer season.

It's especially important that this generation, and future generations, understand that Memorial Day is not just about the barbecue, and that they appreciate the significance of the day.

Memorial Day was originally established as Decoration Day on May 5, 1868 as a way to give Americans an opportunity to decorate the graves of service members killed in the Civil War. After World War I, the observance was expanded to honor all troops killed in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress and was determined to be observed on the last Monday in May so that Americans can honor their fallen heroes.

Many will visit graves and cemeteries, and attend memorial ceremonies today all across the country. But most will not.

My young cousin Paul Cope is in Afghanistan right now. He periodically sends out a little newsletter to friends and family about what's going on. He has given me permission to share his latest post with you today. 
Paul and I when he was here at Ft. Sill

Friday, May 25, 2012

Greetings all!

I hope this finds you all in good health and great spirits.  As the subject line indicates, we have now surpassed the century mark, meaning we now have less than 100 days left in country.  We have started receiving information about the unit that will be replacing us, meeting with their representatives, and started making plans to demobilize and go home!  With that comes a new set of challenges and opportunities.  Most prevalent in my world are the Soldiers and Airmen that are getting complacent and losing focus here and beginning to get into more trouble.  Typically on any deployment we see a spike in military justice actions early on at about the 3 month mark and then at the end when we have about 60 days left in theatre.  As we begin to approach that mark, we have seen our workload steadily increase.  Most of the Soldier issues stem from losing military bearing and disrespecting officers and non-commissioned officers, failing to show up on time for work, and fighting with other Soldiers.  The extreme heat and poor living conditions are also contributing to this.  Most of our Soldiers are still residing in large tents with 30-40 of their "closest" friends and the temperatures have been exceeding 110-115 degrees every day.  There's a bit of a break in the heat at night, when we will see a drop to about 85-90.  However, the hottest days are yet to come.  We are expecting the temps to top 130 in the next month.  It will be miserable to say the least.

This week, I'm attending a training course at another base.  The accommodations here are amazing compared to what we've been living up north.  There's even a swimming pool!  The training should be good and it's a nice break from the normal routine.  The training is an advanced course on anti-terrorism and force protection.  A lot of it is a study into previous terrorist attacks on US assets so that we can attempt to avoid repeating our past mistakes.  It also delves into the planning of construction of new facilities, upgrading old facilities, and establishing checkpoints, entry control points, and other critical infrastructure.  It so far has been fascinating and I feel like it is one of the most beneficial courses I've attended.  In fact, I'm sitting in the class, awaiting the results of the final exam, as I type this email.

I'm looking forward to getting back to the States and catching up with everyone and everything that I've missed  over the last year.  Overall, the deployment has been eye-opening and a true learning experience.  I have done and seen things that I could never have imagined.  It will certainly be something to remember, whether we like it or not.

We've also been living through a number of major and minor sandstorms, known as Shamals and Haboobs.  Shamals are very lengthy sand storms that can last upwards of 5-6 days and are usually accompanied by thunderstorms.  Of course you can probably imagine when you incorporate rain into blinding sand and dust, it begins raining mud.  It's...interesting.  Haboobs on the other hand, are short, high intensity sandstorms.  They pop up quickly and usually only last a day or so.  However, we've been having those on a nightly basis for the last couple of days.  The visibility in either type of storm will usually drop to less than 100 meters and the air quality becomes horrible, making it difficult to breathe when outside.  You can draw parallels between these and the dust storms in Western Kansas, but times 100.

As always, we're proud to be here serving the United States, but at this point, I think we're all ready for a break.  Thank you all for your continued support and kindness.  The letters, emails, and care packages have been overwhelming and much appreciated.

Until next time, I remain faithfully yours,

CPT Paul W. Cope
Command Judge Advocate
1-108th AV REGT
"Strength and Courage!"

I thought you might enjoy his personal account. God willing, he will be coming home safely in less than 100 days.

But for the thousands who did not make it home, for the thousands who have died in service to our country, for the thousands who have died for our freedom, I hope you will pause at 3:00 as part of The National Moment of Remembrance Act and remember.
 "To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.
The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Wishing you a wonderful day, wherever you are.


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