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Reaffirm vets’ solemn pledge

Act to make America better

The plans for this Memorial Day have been made. A picnic in the park, a short vacation to the lake, a trip to the shopping mall, or maybe a visit to a military memorial or a parade. These are all well-deserved rests – Americans work hard. However, we need to pause and remember the fallen.

On Memorial Day, we remember those who fell in combat during America’s conflicts. It could be a U.S. Army paratrooper at Bastogne during World War II or a U.S. Marine on the banks of the frozen Chosin Reservoir in Korea or a U.S. Navy sailor patrolling the Mekong Delta in Vietnam or a U.S. Air Force pilot bombing southern Iraq during Desert Storm. We remember them all – their courage, sacrifice, professionalism, dedication, and the essence that made them devote their life to their country. The Memorial Days since 9/11, we have primarily remembered those who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor can we forget the “small” wars of Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Lebanon, as well as countless other terrorist attacks where American servicemen and servicewomen died.

For America, remembering the sacrifice of others is not enough. The Americans who died in combat died acting with the conviction, dedication and passion that they were making America and the world safer and better. They were right, and we need to repay their devotion with a dedication to act to make America better, just as they were doing when they fell. We need to act in a way that makes America better.

Before May turns into June and the memories of the fallen fade for another year, make a decision to act to make America better. Tutor a child, donate blood, support a local charity, have dinner with strangers at a retirement community, help a veteran advance their post-military career, learn CPR, coach, volunteer in your local VA hospital, serve dinner at a homeless shelter – the list of options to serve America is nearly endless.

Make Memorial Day a day to remember and a day to start acting to remember the fallen throughout the year and not just on one day. Small actions to make America better begin with the values that embody military service: dedication, sacrifice and selfless service. Your actions to make America better are the true recognition of the sacrifice of the fallen.

Chad Storlie is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer with 20-plus years of active and reserve service. An author and adjunct lecturer at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, Nebraska, he wrote this for U.S. newspapers.