Once Again, and Daily, May We Honor our Hometown Heroes

The Hometown Hero banners are up again along the quiet main streets of little towns throughout upstate New York. They honor men and women currently serving in our armed forces. Most of the faces are young. So, so very young. They look down from flag-draped lamp posts along Union Street in the little village of Spencerport. Some are smiling, appearing hopeful and excited. Others are stoically stern. All of them should break our hearts.

Let’s carry such young faces with us, every day. May they be living reminders of the reality of the ongoing sacrifice taking place continually, here and in far-flung spots, for our precious American freedoms. Let’s honor these soldiers, like my twenty-one year old nephew in the Marines, who offer up years of their youth so that we may remain the unique country that our founders envisioned.

Keeping these young faces in our minds and hearts, let’s behave better toward one another. Let’s remember that they’re toiling now to keep us free. Free to voice our own opinions, and free to disagree with one another. But when we disagree, let us strive to do so with grace, thoughtfulness and kindness, recognizing our common humanity. So that we might discover common ground. And so that we won’t take impulsive actions that will jeopardize the republic for which these young heroes fight.

Also on Spencerport’s Union Street lies peaceful Fairfield Cemetery, which I first explored on a walk five years ago with my dog Kiko. As Memorial Day approaches, the graves of the war dead are decorated with American flags. Pictured above is the monument to those from the area who gave their lives defending our Union during the Civil War. Let us remember the devastating cost of a nation divided, and of going to war against one another.

As this viciously polarized election season ramps up, let’s take a deep breath and consider that our hard-won democracy might indeed be fragile. Let’s make choices that show we value the sacrifice of all our hometown heroes, of today and generations past. Let’s remember that they have fought and died, and continue to fight, to protect us from falling prey to tyrants. Let’s pay close attention. Let’s not be misguided by anger and spitefulness. Let’s be informed and seek the truth, even when it’s not the truth we want to hear. Let us not be fooled. Let us recognize those who try to manipulate us into willingly laying down our invaluable freedoms.

Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light!

America, Samuel Smith, 1832