Every person who joins the U.S. military swears an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

From the day they join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard they choose a different kind of life than they have been used to.

In fact, those who serve their country give up many of the freedoms the rest of the nation enjoys. They give up their freedoms, so others can have them, said Bill Palmer, a retired lieutenant colonel of the United States Army and current history teacher in Cottonwood.

Palmer spoke at the Memorial Day program in Milroy this past Monday morning, which is one of dozens of area events held to celebrate the national holiday. 

A few hours later, Daniel Ludwig, past national commander of the American Legion, spoke at a program in Redwood Falls. He emphasized the importance of celebrating those who are honored each Memorial Day not only one day a year but every day.

That, he added, is something we can and must do.

“We will remember them today, but what about tomorrow,” said Ludwig, adding honoring them is something that should be done every day.

How is that accomplished?

For Ludwig is means living free and demonstrating an appreciation for the freedoms given to us as a nation. He added having a positive attitude about those freedoms is critical. It is also important to pass on the message to the next generation.

“We all need to be teachers of democracy,” said Ludwig. “We need to teach the next generation to be patriots.”

Honoring the lives of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice is demonstrated daily by showing support for those who currently are serving and helping the families they leave behind, said Ludwig.

“Pay attention to the families,” said Ludwig.

Ludwig also encouraged those attending the Redwood Falls program to pay attention to the men and women who come back after serving to make sure they are OK and are receiving the help they need.

“Some of the wounds those who serve are not visible,” said Ludwig, adding, however, treating them is just as important.

Not providing that mental health help is what is leading to the rise of suicides among those who have served their country, he said.

“Pay attention to the warriors when they come home,” said Ludwig, adding this is something we can do and something we must do.

The faces of those who have served this country are diverse, said Palmer, adding the military is a representation on a smaller scale of the melting pot that is the United States.

More than 41 million people have served their country as members of the U.S. military and a great number of them have died either in combat or in non-combat situations over the years.

Those who serve their country in the U.S. military give up the freedom to choose what they wear, where they live, what kind of work they do, when they eat and when they sleep.

“This is a life-changing commitment,” said Palmer, “and they do it all for us.”

When things get tough, they can’t just decide to leave or go home, said Palmer. By enlisting, they have accepted their role and the fact that there is the possibility they could be killed.

“I have not yet met someone who served who wanted to die,” said Palmer, adding, however, when the time comes they are willing to put themselves in harm’s way.

There are people in this area who have been killed, but for the most part those who die in the military are people most have never met.

“We are indebted to them and their families,” said Palmer, “but that is a debt we can never repay.”