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Memorial Day: A somber commemoration with African-American roots

firstmemorialday 600It often seems that Memorial Day was invented by manufacturers of outdoor cooking supplies, and for many Americans – if not most of them – the last Monday in May is only about gathering the family for a barbecue.

There's nothing wrong, of course, with enjoying the company of people we love in a bucolic and relaxing atmosphere, but it comes as a shock to many people that the holiday's purpose is to force us to remember the sacrifice of Americans who died for our liberty.

The first Memorial Day was, as Yale Professor David Blight observed, actually created in Charleston, South Carolina, by "Black Americans recently freed from slavery, announcing to the world...what the war was about."

 

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Fighting the war at home on Memorial Day and every day

warathome 600They are the unsung heroes. There are no monuments built to them and no medals of honor awarded, yet they fight every day in the aftermath of America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are the caregivers: the families who love and care for the wounded warriors who come home transformed and tormented.

"We stand quietly in the back," says 35-year-old Tai Kimes, whose husband Casey returned from combat suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).

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The passion of service to our troops in a war that’s not over

Pennington Walker_600My job is about passion.

It's a passion to lead. It's a passion to succeed. And it's a passion to give people a little bit better of a day – or even just a moment – amid some of the biggest challenges of their lives.

I'm the manager at USO Kandahar, one of seven remaining USO centers in Afghanistan. Thought that war was over? A lot of other Americans do, too. But we've still got thousands of U.S. troops serving in harm's way every day. And when those men and women need a break, a nap or a place to call home, they come to our center.

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‘Stealing education’ – the aftermath

Kelley Williams_600CHICAGO – When an Ohio judge sentenced Kelley Williams-Bolar to jail for enrolling children in a suburban school district where their grandfather lived sharp words were spoken. "I will make an example out of you," said the judge.

She was right.

Williams-Bolar is an example of a courageous black woman who feared for the safety of her children when her Akron home was burglarized and a mother who wanted her children to have a good education.

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