The Best of Andy Rooney

I wrote portions of the following piece for a recent "60 Minutes" segment and thought it would be appropriate to release it as a column. It's not often that I repeat in print something I've said on television, and I hope you'll excuse me for it today.

There have only been a few times in my life when someone's death has been an occasion for rejoicing. The day Adolf Hitler died was a good day for the world, and a good day for me. I'd been drafted out of college into the 17th Field Artillery, and while I didn't think so at the time, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The single lucky thing happened when I was transferred out of the 17th Field Artillery Battalion onto the staff of the Army newspaper, The Stars and Stripes. It changed my life forever. I started writing for the paper about Hitler and the war in Europe.

I was appalled at the atrocities Hitler caused in the name of world domination; so much so that I knew I could no longer feel I was a pacifist. War is hell and there's no escaping the fact that death and violence are its by-products.

Hitler changed the good life I was having as a student by taking me out of college and immersing me in the real world of World War II. I hated it, but during the years I spent overseas I received an education college could not have given me.

The day Osama bin Laden died was another good day for the world. For someone my age, there are marked similarities between the deaths of Hitler and Bin Laden. Both were power-hungry men who'd stop at nothing to get the power they lived for. It's hard to believe such men existed. They didn't do it for their countrymen, either. They did it for themselves.

Maybe we should celebrate because, as President Obama said last week, "The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al Qaeda."

And in this month, which ends with Memorial Day, the President said it best, "We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country."

We created Memorial Day to remember and honor those soldiers who died doing what we ask of them: preserving of our way of life in this country. I think it's sad that this day is a holiday, because we celebrate holidays, and Memorial Day shouldn't be celebrated. Most of us don't have a direct connection to the day, in other words we don't know someone who died in a war or in an event leading to war. To most people, Memorial Day is a day off, a day to go shopping at the mall.

I have a suggestion. If, while you're driving to the mall on Memorial Day, you pass a cemetery, stop and look for headstones that read, "Sergeant-U.S. Army," "Veteran of the Korean War," or "Served in Vietnam." Some may carry the words "Killed In Action." Look at each person's name and give thanks for his or her service to this great country. It will be a Memorial Day you'll always remember.

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