Even for those not or no longer in the military, the sacrifice made by the dedicated men and women who have served their country — a sacrifice remembered each Memorial Day — holds a certain amount of weight, as attested to by Congressman Dr. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).
Marshall, representing the First District of Kansas, was the featured speaker at Newton's Greenwood Cemetery for Memorial Day services on May 28 and noted that one of his toughest days as a congressman came this past February when he learned of the sacrifice made by one of those individuals he represented in the first district — a 26-year-old sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve who died in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
"The call to her parents was certainly one of the toughest calls I've ever had to make and that tragic day put again into perspective the sacrifices our troops and their families make on a daily basis," Marshall said. "From the bottom of my heart, let me express my sincere gratitude and let us never forget what these soldiers have done for each of us."
For many Americans, including those on hand for Monday's services, that reality is one they, too, have faced. It was a potential reality for Marshall, who served seven years in the Army Reserve, and a reason he feels compelled to keep veterans in mind in his new role serving his country. Through his years in Congress, Marshall has supported the largest pay raise for active duty troops in more than a decade and worked to improve the services and medical care for the nation's veterans.
Perhaps chief among his work is sharing stories like that he shared in Newton on Memorial Day, as it attests to the price paid for the advantages afforded to those who call the U.S. home.
"As your congressman, I believe one of my most important jobs is to constantly tell the story of those who currently serve and those who have served; to tell their story over and over again lest we forget, lest we take for granted the freedoms we all enjoy," Marshall said.
Celebrating the tradition of Memorial Day for the past 150 years, Marshall recognizes that true meaning of that cost may be less fully understood as the years go by. He pointed to the discrepancy between the representation of active military personnel in World War II (12 percent of Americans) versus those in today's military (with one out of ever 300 American's serving), but it's something he and the rest of the speakers at Newton's Memorial Day services wanted the audience to grasp.
Loni Jensen asked for those present to "give thanks for the freedoms they (veterans) have preserved," while American Legion Post 2 Adjutant Paul Sanford called for the audience to be grateful not only for the sacrifices of those past veterans, but to also think about those currently putting themselves in harm's way.
Marshall continues to carry that torch as well, recognizing veterans both past and present, and he continues to fight for them in a similar way as when he served in the Army Reserve himself — to afford them the same advantages they have helped secure for the rest of the country.
"This is why I served," Marshall said. "Freedom is not free."