Pat Widner passes a flag to Susan Guillory to place on her father's grave at the Dawson Cemetery Veterans Day program.

The World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington has as its centerpiece a magnificent field of Gold Stars. This expansive field of 4,048 sculpted Stars memorializes those lost in the war who paid with their lives for the freedoms we have and enjoy each day in this nation. It is truly staggering to see, and indeed even more humbling to realize, that each one of these 4,048 stars represents 100 American lives. These were the brave of my parents' generation who saved this nation, and the world, in a time of unbelievable peril. Sadly, they would never return to enjoy the very freedom earned with their lives. In fitting tribute, the inscription below the stars reads: "Here We Mark The Price of Freedom."

Other memorials honor the patriotism and courage of those who never returned home. The memorial to those lost in Korea honors over 36,000 warriors. The wall honoring those of my generation killed in Vietnam honors over 58,000. I knew five.

Cemeteries in this nation and throughout the world provide a solemn resting place for them. To visit one of these memorials, or to walk among the graves in an American Military Cemetery, is an emotional experience. To stand among the graves and confront the huge number of those who died can be overwhelming. One immediately feels the enormity of the losses, and the magnitude of their sacrifice.

East Feliciana living and deceased veterans honored in multiple ceremonies

Among their graves, one faces the reality of their courage. Among their graves, the stark reality of what they gave for America lies before you. Their selfless courage, devotion, and patriotism for America are ours to not only honor, but also to emulate. Among their graves one realizes this country's duty to them, and indeed our duty to them, to safeguard and preserve this nation for future generations. We are challenged with this responsibility. To fulfill this duty requires that we find and summon some measure of the strength and courage which they once gave on our behalf. We owe this to them. And we owe this to our children, on their behalf.

There, among the graves one also realizes, as in no other place and in no uncertain terms, that duty to this nation transcends the contemptuous hate-filled rancor and insignificance of today's vicious political behavior. On their graves, recognitions of valor and loving family remembrances are inscribed. On their graves, the words "Democrat" and "Republican" are nowhere to be found. These words did not matter then, and should not matter now.

In this time of national crisis, it would do well for all who now govern this nation, and all who desire to govern, to visit and walk among those who courageously laid down their lives defending this nation. One can only hope that they would then come to fully appreciate the value of this great nation, realize their duty, and discover the meaning of patriotism.

Louis Chapoton