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4:09 AM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Column: A red poppy in memory of Uncle Edgar

"We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies."

Inspired by Major John McRae's WWI poem, Flanders Fields, Moina Michael penned the above verse in 1918.

Now almost 100 years later, I sit at my desk on this Memorial Day, thinking about what this holiday means to me. Today it seems that too many Americans find their 'heroes' in sport icons, movie stars, entertainers, TV personalities, and politicians. To me these folks may be talented, but they are not real heroes. Real heroes are the men and women who get up every day and put on their uniform to protect our way of life. Today's article is a tribute to one such hero - my Uncle Edgar.

My grandparents were farmers, living in the Midwest, when the war came to our shores on Dec. 7, 1941. They had 12 children - four girls and eight boys - and while my dad was too young to enlist, his brothers weren't. Those who were able, including Uncle Edgar, joined thousands of other young men who were reporting for duty in the days and weeks after Pearl Harbor. Several of my uncles were posted stateside, but Uncle Edgar was sent overseas with the U.S. Army, 23rd Infantry Battalion, 7th Armored Division.

Uncle Edgar fought alongside men who were farmers, salesmen, mechanics, and young teens straight out of high school. They didn't question what they were fighting for; they just enlisted, trained, and then fought in countries and places with foreign names. There are many stories similar to my Uncle Edgar's, men and women who wore the uniform and served honorably and with distinction, and gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Those soldiers gave us much more than their lives. They gave us the right to live in a free country and to stand with pride when we see the American flag.

As individuals, we may disagree on many issues: abortion, gun rights, gay marriage, immigration, and in our small hemisphere, water rights and open space, but if it weren't for those who get up each morning, and put on the uniform of this great country, not knowing whether they will live to see another sunrise, we wouldn't have this right to disagree. Nor would we have the freedom to speak our minds, write our 'Letters to the Editor,' post on blogs, or vote how we choose. We couldn't assemble when we want, or worship as we believe. Too often we take our great country for granted, but Memorial Day reminds us that we enjoy our way of life because of those who died to protect and guarantee it.

My Uncle Edgar is among those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. He was killed on April 6, 1945, as the war in Europe was coming to an end. He is buried along with 8,301 other American soldiers far from home at the Netherlands American Cemetery, in Margraten, Netherlands. Neither his mother nor his father ever had the means or opportunity to visit his grave. Some day I hope to pay honor to Uncle Edgar by visiting his final resting place, as it's the least I can do to honor his memory and the memory of so many resting with him. And, when I do get to visit, I plan to place a red poppy on his grave to symbolize the "blood of heroes that never dies" because Uncle Edgar is my hero. I thank him for my freedom and pray his memory never dies.

Pam Jones has been politically active at the local, state and national levels for over 20 years. In addition to owning her own health care consulting business, she has served on many Prescott-area community boards.