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The observance of Memorial Day offers an opportunity for all Americans to stop and reflect on the unique history of the United States and our rights and responsibilities as citizens.

More than 3.1 million men and women have served this nation during a time of war. They know firsthand the sacrifices that all of America's veterans have made to preserve our way of life.

Make no mistake, Memorial Day doesn't glorify war, for no one hates war more than those who've fought the battles. To the contrary, Memorial Day glorifies peace by reminding Americans that we are entrusted with remembering those who paid the ultimate price so that our great country would endure.

Their selfless sacrifice spans the history of America, from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm. These patriots left their homes and families when their country called and gave their last full measure of devotion in defense of freedom.

Today, in tens of thousands of homes, a carefully folded and lovingly preserved American flag rests in a place of honor -- a token of a loved one's sacrifice for their country.

That flag, which once draped the coffin of a service man or woman, holds tears and a lifetime of memories. It offered pride to accompany the pain and sorrow of those whom the fallen had left behind.

It is fitting that we celebrate on Memorial Day the freedom that has been won and sustained by these fallen heroes. They answered their country's call, put themselves in harm's way, placed the welfare of their comrades ahead of their own safety, and put duty ahead of personal interests. Their sacrifice must never be forgotten.

As we pay tribute to America's fallen sons and daughters, let us realize that the United States remains the envy of the world.

What is it about America that has drawn citizens of foreign lands for more than two centuries?

The answer is freedom. It's the freedom that the patriots of this country established with their lives. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are unique throughout the world.

Our Constitution and our great democratic process have survived over the centuries while the unsound governments of many other lands are but the dust of history. Our country has endured because it was founded on principles that are right and true and worth dying for.

Let us never forget that Americans have given their lives in defense of these fragile freedoms that we, in America, have the luxury of referring to as "rights." Let us never take for granted what America's patriots have died to preserve. Let us humbly celebrate these freedoms today. That is the best memorial.

This editorial, written by Roger A. Munson, then-national commander of The American Legion, was first published in The Times and Democrat in 1993.

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