Canales: Every day, always remember, ‘So costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom’

State Representative Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.
State Representative Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

EDINBURG, RGV: For most of us, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer.

When memories are made of wonderful vacations, outdoor barbecues, tremendous weather for swimming and the beach, blockbuster Hollywood films at the local theaters, and dozens of other exciting adventures that make this special time of year in the U.S. unlike anywhere else in the world.

But Memorial Day is also a very important time to show solemn respect to the millions of Americans who have died in wars across the world – and pay special honor to their families who sacrificed so much – so we may live in freedom. Because of them, we enjoy the blessings of liberty, protected from the ruthless tyrants who still roam the earth, desperately seeking to enslave humanity.

The names of U.S. military heroes from the Valley who gave all to save our lives are part of a sacred roll call that will be cherished forever in our hearts and in our history.

In my House District, and throughout the Rio Grande Valley, streets, parks, libraries, and schools proudly bear the names of generations of fallen warriors who answered our nation’s clarion call to stand against the enemies of freedom.

Even a $900 million U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, named after U.S. Marine Alfredo “Freddy” González of Edinburg, patrols the world’s seas, ready and able to defend America and free people everywhere from deadly predators who viciously oppress and kill their own people with an iron fist.

Just a few weeks ago, President Obama bestowed our nation’s highest public recognition for courage and valor – the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor – upon the late Pedro Cano, also of Edinburg, for his incredible feats in defense of his fellow Army soldiers during World War II. (Freddy González, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War, also was posthumously bestowed the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor.)

It is very unfortunate that Memorial Day 2014 may also be remembered for the growing national scandal involving some of the leadership of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The President, along with congressional leaders, are launching investigations into why and how government officials supposedly hid how long our veterans were unfairly waiting to see doctors at VA hospitals and clinics, including in South Texas.

If true, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki should be fired by President Obama, along with every other high-ranking official in the U.S. Veterans Administration who was involved in what would be a shameless and despicable deception. As a state legislator, I will be heavily involved in coming up with effective Texas-based solutions to protect our veterans from any such abuses in the future from the federal VA hospital system, and to increase and improve VA hospital and clinic services to our Valley and Texas veterans.

But as we focus on what we can continue doing for our living veterans and their families, let us, as a grateful nation, never forget the many who died so we may live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

President Lincoln may have best expressed how Americans feel upon hearing the tragic news of any U.S. veteran who gives his or her life to protect our God-given liberties.

I offer his profound letter, made famous by the film “Saving Private Ryan”, to help all of us better keep in our hearts and minds what Memorial Day is really all about:

Executive Mansion, Washington, November 21, 1864.

Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:

Dear Madam:

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.

But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln.

Terry Canales is a Texas state representative. A Democrat who resides in Edinburg, Texas, Canales represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County. The district includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco.

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