Memorial Day: A time to remember heroes of war, heroes of peace

Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords

Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

For countless decades now, Memorial Day in this great nation has zeroed in on remembering all the women and men who lost their lives in battle.

Thus, the populace has observed celebrations and similar commemorations that focused on the women and men of the military, they who responded to various calls for God and country. Remembering however, does not have to wait for Memorial Day.

Thankfulness is due those who perpetuate signal recollections of acts of patriotism and bravery that remain in living color.

There are living, unsung heroes among us. I recall one who is still among us. I rank Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords among the bravest legislators of her time.

Erica Smegielski

Erica Smegielski

On January 8, 2011, Giffords was, according to news reports, just three feet away from the gunman in a grocery parking lot while in the midst of a dialogue with her constituents. She was shot in the head by Jared Lee Loughner.

Six innocent lives were taken that day, including that of a 9-year old girl. Since that day, Giffords has joined campaigns to keep guns out of the wrong hands and reduce gun violence. The former legislator has admitted through her exchanging thoughts on gun control she is not “angry” about what happened to her. She has deplored and actively pursued the movement to make communities safer from gun violence. She and her husband Mark Kelly had written a book “Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe from Gun Violence.”

Giffords is a living hero. She has denounced how the gun lobby has consistently blocked common sense reforms to gun ownership, like strengthening the country’s background check system and holding irresponsible gun dealers accountable when they break the law.

Another living hero is Erica Smegielski, who lost her mother, the principal at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut where, on December 14, 2012, gunman Adam Lanza walked into that school and killed 20 people including Erica’s mom as she tried to protect the children.

In their own way, both Gabby Giffords and Erica Smegielski, are doing what they can, to stand up to the National Rifle Association and do ‘what it takes’ to prevent gun violence. Their names need not be emblazoned in color. They are living heroes. They are doing what it takes to prevent senseless killings and working on meaningful measures to prevent similar tragedies that have occurred around the country.

Reminders from all heroes are for the most part intangible. They continue to exist as virtual keepsakes dedicated to the living, as they continue to subscribe to fairness, justice and rightfulness.

On these frontiers, the American people know only too well that not every soldier who goes to war comes home. Even when loved ones return home from the battlefield seemingly intact, their friends and kin need to consider how those painful feelings of loathing and fear adhered to those who went to war, to those who went to battle. Those horrors may have drastically changed these young men and women who left the comforts of home in the name of service.

Memorial Day is for all war heroes, including heroes of peace.

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