When I was a kid, my Gramma used to make me go with her to the cemetary on Memorial Day. We'd visit my dad's grave, her dad's grave, and later, her mom's grave, and those of other relatives. I used to hate it, but was taught to respect my elders, so I always went, and helped her where I could. Pulling weeds, placing those plastic wreaths on the graves, taking off the ones we left last year. You know the drill.
The first few Memorial Days that rolled around after Gramma died, I still went, more out of family obligation than any sense of responsibility.
Fast-forward to 9/11 - Everyone kinda went crazy with flag t-shirts and flags and what I call "on the sleeve" patriotism. For me, wearing a t-shirt with the flag on it, or even waving a flag in the 4th of July parade is not patriotic. That's something different. For me, patriotism is something much deeper. A patriotic person obeys all laws (including those about speed and stopping at stop signs and red lights). They support (at least publicly) those in power, and if there's disagreement, then the patriotic person works from the inside to make changes.
I've had the pleasure over the years of making the acquaintance of many who have fought for this country. Some in Korea, a very few in WWII, and quite a lot who fought in Viet Nam. I was working for the Army National Guard when Desert Storm started, and I lost a few people it was my sincere pleasure to have met at the Pentagon on 9/11.
I've been thinking recently about what it takes to decide to go to war for your country. I know it's not a decision most make lightly. It's a service that most of us wouldn't do, and for that, we should be deeply, humbly grateful for those who will.