To our readers: We at Harris Publications and PersonalDefenseWorld wish you and yours a happy and relaxing Memorial Day 2013. To America’s brave servicemen and women, past and present, we express our profound, unstinting gratitude. At Harris, we write a great deal about exercising our right to self-defense. On this Memorial Day weekend—and, frankly, everyday—let’s take a moment to recognize the valiant warriors who over the course of American history, from 1776 to the present day, have fought and died to uphold, to self-defend, that bedrock right. By virtue of their sacrifices, the American way of life—our mighty experiment in individual liberty—persists. We thank them; and we vow, on this holiday and every day after, to never take their heroism for granted.

After the American Civil War, a day was set aside to honor soldiers both in the Union blue and Confederate grey who had fought and died in our nation’s most costly conflict—one that forever united our Republic. It was later called Memorial Day, and was extended to honor not only the approximately 750,000 Americans killed at Bull Run, Vicksburg, Gettysburg and countless other campaigns, battles and skirmishes in the War Between the States, but all Americans who have died while in the armed forces of the United States.

As a child in Miami, my family liked to celebrate the holiday with a cookout at Crandon Park beach on Key Biscayne. My Dad flew Clippers for Pan Am and held a U.S. Navy Commission during WWII. He reluctantly talked about his duties, which put him frequently in combat zones—one time being chased and fired upon by German night fighters while bringing captured Nazi equipment back from North Africa to the States for evaluation by American intelligence and ordnance personnel. He survived, but friends on other flights did not. He laughed as he told about how the only way they were able to get a freshly captured Afrika Korps artillery piece into his aircraft was to actually cut a hole in the tail for the barrel to get it on board! My Mom’s first husband was a tanker for Patton and was KIA, but not before liberating some concentration camps, sending her a pistol taken off a guard that he personally dispatched.

While we enjoyed the hot dogs, warm sand and the coconut palms, my parents made sure I understood that Memorial Day, was for the ones that didn’t make it home from where American warfighters fought and died to preserve our freedom. Nowadays the holiday is celebrated by decoration of veterans’ graves with American flags, each carefully placed above our interred warriors and public events to show our appreciation, that as a nation, we recognize our freedom was not free and that bill was paid by hundreds of thousands of men and women who put honor and service ahead of personal safety.

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