voice for democracy

Viewpoint: This Veterans Day, we have a legacy of sacrifice and freedoms to uphold – Oklahoman.com

Except for the breeze and sounds of waves, the quiet was deafening at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. The site was far different from June 6, 1944, when it was the scene of the largest military operation in history.  
Amid the peaceful stillness, it was hard to imagine the violent battle that once raged there. Young Americans had raced ashore into a maelstrom, beginning the surge to free Europe from the grips of Nazi despotism and defend the valued principles of our democracy. 
On that visit, my daughter, Emily, captured a photo of a lone red poppy in the expanse of green fields as if a sentinel standing silently over the sacred place. The meaning was clear — never forget.  
As we walked along a beautiful tree-lined pathway, we came upon the American Cemetery with row after row of pristine white crosses, Stars of David and memorials to other ethnicities. Over 10,000 Americans are buried there. The cemetery was tranquil, beautiful and yet sad at the same time. It leaves you speechless, grateful and searching deeply to understand the sacrifices made. Too few veterans of that war remain. It is now upon us to remember and to pass on the truth of their stories.  
We owe so much to all veterans who sacrificed their futures for ours. They lie in graves around the world. Generations of veterans still bear physical and emotional scars of war.  
Our veterans ask little in return. Those coming back from the horrors of war seek peace and quiet. We owe them all our gratitude and respect, as well as the courage to act to ensure them and their families are cared for — no exceptions.    
Abraham Lincoln said it was for us, “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan.” 
This Veterans Day, we must put differences aside. Too much is at stake. We have a legacy of sacrifice and freedoms to uphold. We owe those who have fought through countless wars the promise to keep this republic together.   
When gazing at the Pacific Ocean, I think of my father and uncles who fought there during World War II. I cannot help thinking of all those “kids” who fought and died there. And on the beaches of Normandy. And across Europe. And in so many other places.  
The “Lone Poppy” stands in remembrance of all who fought and died across centuries for us. Their stories must be told.  
We must always be vigilant and protect the principles of our experiment in democracy. We can do much more and should as a grateful nation. 
Remembering and saying a prayer for them this Veterans Day is a good start. Godspeed to far too many who gave so much for us. Their legacy encompasses all of us. We are all Americans regardless of our persuasion. Our legacy will be protecting theirs.  
Phil G. Busey Sr. is chairman and CEO of DRG and The Busey Group of Cos.