On Memorial Day, I had an experience that made me think about how our society undervalues our veterans, and how people don’t have enough respect for their service.

I am a member of the Hall-Dale band and had the honor of being a part of Hallowell’s Memorial Day service. All around me, I could hear and see evidence that reaffirmed my belief.

It disappointed me to see how many distracting conversations were going on during the prayers and commemorative words. You would think that more people could at least feign respect. It was incredible how so many didn’t care enough to sacrifice even two hours of their precious time to honor those who sacrificed the rest of theirs for us.

It began when a couple started talking extensively about their family’s barbecue plans as the group bowed their heads in prayer. Now, I realize the thought of beer and burgers waiting at home can be distracting; we are Americans, after all!

I wondered, however, how many of our troops starved to death during the wars they fought, while suffering though wind and weather? While obviously we need to fill our stomachs on a regular basis, the inconsiderate conversation of that couple, who plainly found their lunch plans more immediately important than the service at hand, was infuriating.

To my amazement, students around me were quietly saying things such as, “Why don’t you just read us “Moby Dick,” it’d be more interesting!” or saying “Just shut up!” with exasperation in their voices.

After awhile, one student started to pelt rocks at another’s back, while another stuffed trash into a saxophonist’s bell.

I didn’t speak up to my fellow students regarding their behavior because I feared that I’d become more of a disruption than they were. I felt ashamed to be affiliated with these people who are my classmates.

I don’t know of another group as underappreciated as veterans. These men and women gave years of their time, if not the rest of their lives, for what has been progressively becoming an ungrateful, parasitic generation.

I feel incredulous that the very people who reap the benefits from two centuries of veterans’ sacrifices are the ones who are apathetic and disrespectful toward their memory.

What some people seem to forget not only is what they gave, but also who they gave it to. They fought and died for my freedom, for me; not just for the people around me. They fought not only for their generation, but for every generation to come. What they did is just as relevant today as it was in their era.

Without our veterans, the world would be a very different place. Because of their undying devotion to the belief that “all men are created equal,” our world is made up of more than just blonde-haired, blue-eyed, straight, anti-Semitic, non-disabled people.

I’ll never have to dye my hair in order to stay camouflaged. My little sisters will never suffer by the hand of a slave driver. They are learning to read and write just as well as their white classmates. I can express whatever opinion or belief my heart desires. I have the freedom and the right to protest my government.

Without veterans, how could one ever hope to be able to practice these freedoms? Their sacrifice applies directly to us, and the way we live our lives today. We are not just commemorating a bunch of random dead guys. We are honoring those who gave their lives to gain and maintain the freedoms we so desperately crave.

If we don’t remember the wars, and more importantly the brave soldiers who fought in them and what they fought for, how can we ever expect to be able to combat war itself? How will we ever be able to look back on history with a reflective and critical eye?

Veterans have played a significant role in making our country what it is, for the better or the worse (mostly for the better, I think).

We are selfish and ungrateful when we disrespect our veterans, while taking for granted all that their sacrifices have given us.

In the end, this attitude can only diminish who we are as a nation.

Helen Call is a senior at Hall-Dale High School.

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