No one has paid a greater price for America's freedom than the veterans we will honor today.
In neighborhoods throughout our county, as in others all across the land, flags adorn homes to mark the occasion begun as Decoration Day to honor the nation's war dead. Here and there the odd flag flies, older, faded, of a size not available from stores, a flag that perhaps once draped a serviceman's coffin.
In the cemeteries of the land, large and small, the burial places slowly, quietly, take on a mantle of dignified color and beauty.
Flags. Cut flowers. Blooming plants. Artificial decorations. Older family members guide younger ones through the pathways to locate a particular grave, so the journey of remembrance may continue in future years.
Along Memorial Drive at Kansas University, flowers are left at the Vietnam Memorial, and further east, in the World War II Memorial Campanile, a bouquet and a small flag taped to the polished granite wall honor a veteran lost at sea; for him there is no other marker. The graves of those honored on Mt. Oread and their comrades elsewhere are the foundations of the lives we enjoy today.
It has been more than 50 years since the end of World War II, and much attention has been focused on the loyal and steadfast generation that fought that war and led the nation after its conclusion. It was -- and is -- a generation unusually focused on meeting its responsibilities and doing what "needs to be done." Its numbers are dwindling but, hopefully, its influence will continue.
Americans have, of course, fought other wars -- declared or not -- in the last 50 years in places like Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East. The current U.S. involvement with NATO troops in Kosovo has been a sobering reminder that although America is the world's only remaining superpower, it cannot maintain that role without a strong, viable military force.
Perhaps because of the outstanding service of many of the veterans we honor today, too many national leaders take America's military for granted, assuming it will always be available and equal to any task. Evidence coming out of Kosovo raises concerns either about America's military readiness or the ability of our top leadership to set the proper strategy to allow troops to accomplish our military goals. Those concerns must be addressed if America is to remain strong.
A cemetery on Memorial Day is a peaceful place. Unfortunately, that same peace doesn't always reign around the world. We should be grateful for the armed forces that help preserve the principles of peace and freedom for all of us to enjoy.