BIDLACK | Remember those who gave all to make this Election Day possible

Author: Hal Bidlack - November 6, 2018 - Updated: November 5, 2018

Hal Bidlack
Hal Bidlack

Today is Election Day, and that’s a remarkable thing. We Americans all too often take voting for granted. About half of us don’t bother to vote and the rest vary widely in their enthusiasm to exercise their franchise. And that’s a shame. We are all of us born into a society wherein voting is a normal, if oft ignored, part of life. But for most of human history the act of voting was unknown and occasionally sinister. Thomas Jefferson’s remarkable 35-word statement within the Declaration of Independence, beginning with the famous phrase “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” represents the most remarkable political writing in history – the idea that governments were created for the citizens and not as servants to a king. We are the sons and daughters of revolutionaries who took on the world’s greatest military power on the principle that we are inherently free. Yet today, far too many in Colorado and the nation forget that legacy.

But a simple and sacred event that took place last week shows the importance and the power of Mr. Jefferson’s creed.  On a wide and grassy field not far from the Colorado Springs Airport, our state and our nation gained new hallowed ground as the remains of four Colorado military men were laid to rest in the nation’s newest national cemetery. The Gazette’s Tom Roeder wrote a moving story on the event.

The Pikes Peak National Cemetery is now open, and four new graves, one from each of the four military services, stand with white stone markers for all to see and to remember. I had the honor, during my time on U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s staff, to work on the issue of creating a new national cemetery in Southern Colorado. Many dedicated veterans worked for many years to make it happen, and it wasn’t easy. But on this election day, I ask you to pause to remember the four men who served their nation so that you could walk free, and vote.

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Charles Joyner, Army Pfc. James Grant, Navy Seaman Joseph Romero and Marine Corps Master Sgt. Kurt Krause all now rest in the nation’s newest national cemetery. Please read their names again, and remember them, for they represent the sacrifice of so many, over so many generations. The VA’s National Cemetery Administration will oversee the new cemetery, as it does all the national cemeteries. The director of the new cemetery reports that they are currently working on over 300 burial requests, with an additional 100 families asking about moving their loved one from Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver to Colorado Springs. The 374-acre facility will ultimately provide final resting places for thousands of veterans.

My wife and I find walking in cemeteries to be a powerful and emotional experience, as we read the gravestones and think about the people now long departed. In that small way, those individuals can remain alive in our memories and in our hearts. During my various military assignments in the Washington DC area, I often spent time in Arlington National Cemetery, walking among the honored dead there. On one occasion I found the grave of Navy diver Robert Stethem, who was murdered by terrorists on a hijacked aircraft in 1985. As I approached the grave to pay my respects, I saw that his mother and father were there, tending the grave. I spoke with them for a few minutes, remembering their son and his sacrifice. That has remained a powerful memory, one that I often recall in election season.

I do, of course, have a political point of view, and I hope that the candidates and issues I support find themselves elected and passed by the voters today. But regardless of whether you vote for Mr. Polis or Mr. Stapleton, regardless of yea or nay on prop 112 or any of the others, I ask that you be sure to study and to vote as an informed citizen. That is the duty passed down from Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration to each of us in the 21stCentury.

And I ask that you remember Master Sgt. Joyner, PFC Grant, Seaman Romero, and Master Sgt. Krause as you vote. Their mortal remains are now forever safe in the sacred soil of the nation’s newest national cemetery. They are home, in Colorado. But their service, and the service of millions of others, continues, so that you may take part in the most remarkable event in human history – the casting of a free and fair ballot.

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.