Next Monday is Memorial Day, a day that we set aside to remember and honor our fallen warriors.

Next year is a major election year in America.

Both events are as inseparable as the Red, White and Blue colors in Old Glory.

Some time ago I spent time walking through a cemetery in search of the grave of a soldier for a feature story I was working on at the time.

No soldier in particular, just one ... a representative of the hundreds, thousands even, of local folks who answered their country’s call to serve.

The late spring afternoon was stirred by a warm breeze that whispered through the dogwoods in bloom, the pines, oaks, and century-old cedars that surrounded the graveyard on a hillside overlooking a historic church that itself has graced that site for nearly a dozen generations.

It was peaceful and eriely quiet as I walked slowly through row after row of headstones looking for deceased heroes of wars fought long ago.

I found a grave I was searching for. Many more, in fact, than I imagined I would.

There were graves of soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the War Between the States (Civil War) ... World War One ... World War Two ... Korea ... Vietnam ... Desert Shield/Storm ... Iraq ... Afghanistan ... and the peacetime soldiers of the National Guard.

I was awed by their sheer numbers, and thankful, too, that these men and women — most of whom were not much more than teenagers when they left their homes, families, jobs and schools to go and fight wars in faraway places — were true heroes, people of character and conviction who believed in something so strongly that they were willing to die for it.

Many returned alive, safe and sound. Others came home with horrible wounds, scars and disabilities, both physical and emotional.

Scores of others came home in coffins.

The bodies of many were never found, buried forever in unmarked graves on battlefields with names that few people today can even pronounce if they remember them at all.

It is those brave souls that we will pause to remember next Monday.

Remember we must.

We must remember their sacrifices.

We must remember their courage.

We must remember their examples and continue the fight to keep this nation free.

We must drill it into our children and grandchildren so that they also remember, and if and when the time comes, put on the uniform of their nation and do likewise.

And one of the best ways we can honor the sacrificial service of our veteran heroes is to go to the polls and vote ... vote for the man or woman you feel is best suited for the office which they are seeking.

Honestly, folks, I have seen elections where less than 20 percent of the registered voters cast ballots.

Voter apathy is inexcusable, especially when viewed on the big screen, in living color, of the fact that men and women fought, bled, suffered and many died to give us the right to CHOOSE our leaders in free and open elections.

Neither I nor this newspaper would ever be so presumptuous as to tell our readers whom to vote for.

We will, however, say this ... if you aren’t seriously ill, have an unexpected family emergency, or are otherwise providentially hindered, there is no excuse for anyone’s failure to vote. I have heard the tired old excuses ... “I was out of town on election day” ... “I was busy” ... “I didn’t think about it” ...

Blah, blah, blah.

Excuses, excuses, excuses.

Early Voting, or absentee voting, allows persons to vote weeks in advance.

Work schedules aren’t an excuse either since most states have laws that allow workers time off to vote. In Tennessee, the polls open early and close late, so on-site voting shouldn’t be a problem either.

The bottom line is this ... if you are a registered voter and consciously choose to thumb your nose at a right those soldiers gave you, a right that millions of oppressed people around the world would literally give anything to have — you should be ashamed of yourself.

If you are of legal voting age and aren’t registered to vote, why not?

I have little tolerance for anyone who deliberately turns their back on that privilege. Sorry if that sounds cold but, as I stood looking at those soldiers’ graves, I was overcome with a deep, lonely, sadness at how far into the septic tank of left-wing, liberal, socialistic insanity our country has fallen in recent years, largely because of voter apathy, an uninformed public, and just sheer ignorance of historical truths, and I wondered ... if those dead soldiers could rise up out of their graves and speak to today’s generation, what would they say?

Honestly, some might not want to hear what they would say and hang their heads in shame because their words would likely sting.

When we neglect the blood-bought right to exercise the right to choose our leaders at every level — local, district, state and national — we are insulting and spitting on the graves of every veteran who now rest in graveyards just like the one I visited recently, and the living veterans whose service we will honor on Veteran’s Day.

On Monday, pause to remember our deceased military heroes, then on election days, honor their memory by striking a blow of your own for freedom by voting.

God bless our veterans ... past and present, living or deceased.

We are eternally grateful and thankful for their service and sacrifice.