It's probably the greatest service those of us lucky enough to be alive can render to those who no longer are: the simple act of remembering. Lest we forget.
But remembering and thinking of others shouldn't be limited only to one day or only to fallen soldiers (not that they don't deserve such a special day, clearly they do). It should be 24/7/365. And we should remember people who are both living and dead.
For example, let me give you a couple of NYC-centric examples. They're small tributes, really, but no less noble.
At the upcoming Tony Awards show, a special Tony will be given to the NYPD for their heroism in quickly thwarting and arresting the Times Square bomber. These cops not only saved a lot of lives but also a major NYC industry in the midst of a recession. I'm glad that Broadway is honoring these guys now.
And here's another act of remembering: TV actor Gary Coleman died this past weekend. He was a big star on the show "Diff'rent Strokes" in the 1970s and 80s but his life took a sad turned after the show ended. His parents stole all the money he earned, he had health problems and run-ins with the law. He was so deeply troubled, in fact, that he was turned into a down n'out character in the Broadway musical "Avenue Q." Gary's death has led to some tweakings in the show but his character will not be excised. Although he had a sad life he will be forever immortalized in a classic, joyous piece of theater that gives people as much joy as his TV character did to me a child.
Then there are those who haven't died or been killed but who are struggling. Because of the state budget crises, many adult literacy classes are being cut. Let's not forget these people who are being hurt.
So from soldiers to cops to adult students to TV actors, we naturally think of the poet Rudyard Kipling. He wrote a great poem called "Recessional" in 1897 (for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee) about how, when nations rise to great power, they often forget their God. "Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget--lest we forget! he opines at one point, or else we will go into decline.
Well, we all go into permanent decline at some point and we hope that we will be remembered long afterwards.