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Pioneer Editorial: Reflect on freedom, veterans this week

In this fast-paced, digital world, you often wonder if we stop long enough to reflect on the people who and the events that shaped all that we know today. There’s that next tweet to read, after all.

But as a society, we need to think more often and more deeply on those things because we wouldn’t be as free as we are today to tweet on Twitter or post on Facebook and Instagram if it wasn’t for our veterans.

Sure, there’s Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Flag Day, and possibly the most patriotic of all, this week when we celebrate Independence Day. But, sadly, more often than not, many associate those days with paid time off from work or barbecues and visits to the lake.

And as the years stretch, our connection to those people and events in the past becomes that much more tenuous.

So, in addition to the parades and the flags this Independence Week, there’s another event we should stop and reflect upon.

On Wednesday, Bemidji World War II veteran John O’Boyle will receive the National Order of the Legion of Honour from the French government in recognition of his services in the country.

The 91-year-old O’Boyle was a private first class in 1944 and took part in the Normandy and Rhineland campaigns that helped free France and others from German occupation. Although not on the first wave of the D-Day invasion, fighting was still heavy, as O’Boyle told Bemidji’s Dave Quam, who did a series of video interviews with WWII vets for Veterans Day 2012 you can find on the Pioneer’s website, O’Boyle told Quam about how he was one of only three people in his 12-person squad to survive the fighting outside of Saint-Lo, France, in his early days in combat.

O’Boyle later was seriously injured by machine gun fire in September 1944 at the Siegfried Line as Allied troops continued their way to Germany. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., will present O’Boyle with his Legion of Honour recognition on Wednesday. When contacted by the Pioneer for a preview story, O’Boyle was quick to deflect any personal praise.

“I think the award is more important than the recipient,” O’Boyle told Pioneer reporter Trent Opstedahl. “I should say there are thousands of soldiers who are equally qualified to receive it.”

O’Boyle’s and other WWII veterans’ contributions to who we are and how we live today should never be forgotten. And as they leave us, projects such as Quam’s become an even more important part of history.

True, there are many others who are equally qualified. But so are you, John.

Thanks for your service.

Now, tweet about that.

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