31 May 2016


Who can forget the opening few minutes from the heart-wrenching 1998 blockbuster, Saving Private Ryan. In theaters across the country, nobody breathed for minutes on end as we watched in horror Hollywood’s realistic depiction of the historic invasion. Later in the movie, during their search for Private Ryan, Corporal Upham confides in Captain Miller his belief that his war experiences were good for him. He quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson  as he recounts, “War educates the senses, calls into action the will, perfects the physical constitution, brings men into such swift and close collision in critical moments that man measures man.” To which Tom Hanks character Captain Miller replies, “I guess that’s Emerson’s way of finding the bright side.”
There is no bright side to war. There never has been and there won’t be in the future. It’s impossible to write about the battles our nation has fought…and the daily battles we’re currently engaged in…and put a positive spin on it. The clashes themselves are ugly, painful and destructive. If you watch too much nightly news it’s easy to become discouraged and disheartened about the state of the nation and world affairs. What is not disheartening – in fact quite the opposite – are the thousands of stories about the men and women in our country who make a conscious decision to give up their comfort, their families and in many cases their very lives to go defend people they will never meet. That would be you and me.
This recent Memorial Day weekend has seemed to awaken a new sense of gratitude and patriotism among us. At least on Nantucket, more than ever before, there is a new surge of determination to spend significant time remembering and honoring those who served, were injured, died or are still on the front lines. The local radio station, WACK-FM 97.7 spent the past two weeks running promos with the community supported effort called “bring Memorial Day back.” Reminding us that this important holiday is not just about family picnics, parades or sailboat races…but truly a time to pay tribute to the people we owe our very freedom to.
Nantucket has no shortage of men and women who have served their country. Stop into the local American Legion or VFW on any winter afternoon and you’ll find a number of salt of the earth guys and gals who have war stories. They are all humble, so the stories aren’t offered freely, but get to know these dedicated folks and it’s amazing where their service has taken them. Their tone is quiet and their voices keep a cadence as they recount memories…reverence for their fellow soldiers, their families, the country they love. True patriotism.
There are a number of ways to help pay tribute to our heroes on Nantucket. Join an event or dinner hosted by the American Legion or the VFW. Attend the fall gala hosted by Holidays for Heroes to make it possible for a wounded vet and their family to enjoy a vacation of a lifetime on Nantucket. Or simply purchase an American Flag and proudly display it on your home or flag pole…and be reminded daily why it matters.
Never forget.


Shellie Dunlap
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