Since the Civil War, 26,800 Wisconsinites have died in America’s wars. For generations, this country has been defended by those that have felt a call which has led them to extraordinary service. And often, they have come from ordinary communities like ours.
Here in my hometown of Somerset, this holiday has always been held in high regard as several of our community members have given their lives in service to this country. Our community lost close neighbors and friends in world wars and Vietnam. Yet, of course, this is not unique to us. Wisconsin small towns and big cities alike have sent sons and daughters to serve in the armed forces for generations and many have paid the ultimate price.
Consider taking the time to dig into your community’s history and discover the many patriots that have lived, learned and worked in the same places as you have. Here in Somerset, we have streets named after some of those who have sacrificed. Our streets named after Vanasse, Schachtner and Reed may go unnoticed by many commuters but they mean something very special to the families of the selfless service members after which they are named.
Memorial Day presents an opportunity to reflect on that history in your own community as well as a chance to reach out to veterans and Gold Star families in your neighborhood.
I also usually spend this important day with my dad — a veteran himself. As his fellow veterans have dwindled in numbers, he is left without many people that share his experiences. This year, it will also be difficult not to be able to sit with him. Instead, we will honor the sacrifices of the service members he served with that died during active duty, as well as those in the years since, through the window of his long-term care facility.
This year, my family will gather in a small group or across virtual platforms to share our remembrances of those who our country has lost. While we may be without the usual parades and cookouts, this new reality does not prevent us from honoring their service as we would any other year.
As President John F. Kennedy said in one of his last addresses to our nation’s troops, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”
This Memorial Day, my family and I will pause to reflect on the loved ones we have lost in war and to consider the calls to service we find in our own lives. So I invite you to do the same and consider the duty that we all share to serve our communities and this country boldly and selflessly.
State Sen. Schachtner, D-Somerset, represents Wisconsin’s 10th District, which covers parts of Burnett, Dunn, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties.