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The vehicles zoom past the window, dozens of times a day, for several days leading up to major holidays.

They are the members of the local Kiwanis Club, attending to their duties to place American flags in front of businesses and residences throughout the community.

It is a scene repeated in hundreds, maybe thousands of cities and towns across this great land.

They do it as a civic duty and I’m sure to raise money for some worthy cause like scholarships for local youth.

We get to see the work first-hand at our Mineola office because the flags are stored nearby.

It’s a lot of work, and they can only hope that the weather holds during flag-raising and lowering periods.

The last time, they had to wait a few extra days for the flags to dry out before they could be hauled back into storage.

This time they were blessed with better days.

While the flags go up during several patriotic periods, none is more somber or reverent than the one just passed – Memorial Day.

Our flag is still up as I write this and has been for several days.

We paid a small subscription to have this done and are glad to do so.

Having spent most of my career in smaller Texas communities, I have marveled at the debt each of those communities owes to the men and women who helped forge those communities during the decades after the Second World War.

And it struck me that one of their motivations had to be those friends they left behind, those for whom we pause to remember each year on the fourth Monday in May.

We honor veterans, first responders and many others who help keep our society on a path toward progress.

But for this one day, it is for those who are not here. Those who did not get the chance to be fathers and husbands or mothers and wives and parents and contributing members of our communities.

Something I did not know growing up but am constantly reminded of as I read the obituaries of the parents – principally fathers – of my friends and classmates, was that I grew up among, and was influenced by, heroes. They are, or were, the members of what Tom Brokaw once called “The Greatest Generation,” a moniker that has stuck with them, and deservedly so.

They didn’t talk about it too much, so you wouldn’t know who they left behind, what buddy didn’t make it back, or what classmate did not come home.

But I can’t help but believe that honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice was a major motivating factor in the work that they did, to build families and churches and communities and much more.

They turned the United States of America into a country that, despite its many flaws, remains the single place in the world where others flock for a better life.

The least we can do is to pay tribute to the ones who didn’t make it.

Without their sacrifice, who knows what we would have instead.

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