A day to remember, respect and honor

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By Steve Beshear


   By Steve Beshear

   Guest columnist


   Members of my staff who attended the recent burial of Staff Sgt. Bryan E. Bolander in Hopkinsville say the event played out in sound.


   The roar of motorcycles as Patriot Guard Riders escorted the hearse to Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West.


   The cadence of boots on pavement as a contingent from the 101st Airborne Division marched their brethren’s coffin to the committal shelter.


   The haunting notes of Taps.


   The staccato cracks of seven, black M-16s firing a 21-gun salute.


   Soft but forceful orders directing six pairs of white-gloved hands as they pulled taut and folded the American flag.


   The low sobs of friends and family.


   Altogether, a symphony of sound reminding us that war is not a distant memory from musty history books but a harsh, demanding reality.


   Perhaps we need that reminder this Memorial Day.


   Since April 1 alone, 18 soldiers from Kentucky or a Kentucky-based unit have died in the war on terror.


   Some 70 Kentucky natives have been killed since the beginning of the fighting. Just Saturday, Specialist Jeremy Gullet of the 101st Airborne was buried in Greenup.


   He was 22.


   Like Sgt. Bolander, he was killed by an improvised explosive device.


   Our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers are dying.


   Are we aware?


   In too many areas the war in Iraq and Afghanistan has been relegated to the back pages of newspapers, the tail end of television newscasts and the forgotten crevasses of our minds.


   It’s time we put their dedication and their sacrifice front and center in the public consciousness.


   We are fortunate to have such brave men and women protecting us from terrorists and terroristic threats here and abroad.


  On the Web site of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs is a list of the 70 Kentucky soldiers who have died in the war on terrorism.


   Their ages stretch from 19 to 50. They came from big cities and small towns. They were killed in helicopters, by mines, by explosives and by bullets.


   Some were active duty Army and Marines, others in the Army Reserves or Kentucky National Guard.


   All are now unified by the bond of sacrifice.


   This Memorial Day, let us remember, respect and honor them and all others who have died fighting for this nation.



    - Steve Beshear is in the first year of his first term as governor of Kentucky.