By Timothy Cox
Memorial Day isn't about picnics, parties or half-off sales at the mall. It's not even about getting a day off work.
That is what Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue told a crowd of about 300 gathered for a holiday ceremony at the veterans memorial on South Main Street. It was only in recent years that LaRue said she came to fully understand the importance of Memorial Day and the ultimate sacrifice that thousands of men and women have made for the preservation of the nation.
Although she lived through World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the first Persian Gulf War, it was not until the terrorist attacks against America that any of it personally affected her, LaRue said. The united spirit of the nation following the attacks and the realization of the importance of the nation's military brought into focus what decades of fighting elsewhere in the world had not.
"What unites us? Freedom -- that our service men and women have died for. They gave us this freedom," LaRue said. "I realized how fragile this precious gift is. It's a rare commodity."
LaRue was born in the days following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, so has no real memory of World War II. She was an elementary school student during the Korean conflict and unaware of the military engagement on the other side of the globe. Vietnam was terrible to see unfold, but LaRue said she knew almost no one directly involved in that war. One relative came home a "changed man," but LaRue said she was largely unaffected by Vietnam.
The same held true for the Persian Gulf War that followed a months-long buildup of an American-led coalition to liberate Kuwait from the hands of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The most notable thing about that war, LaRue said, is that the 100-hour rout of Iraqi forces played out live on television for Americans to see.
When the fight finally came to America in the form of the Sept. 11 attacks, LaRue said she like many people were forever changed. In the days following the deadliest attacks ever on American soil, America's true spirit came through, she said.
"Americans united. This attack didn't rip us apart, it brought us together," LaRue said.
The mayor's poignant comments were well-received by the crowd. Several well-wishers told LaRue after the ceremony that it was one of the best speeches they had ever heard. LaRue concluded her speech by reading a poem by an unknown author called "No, freedom isn't free."