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Remembering US Army veteran Paul Marino

Today is Memorial Day, devoted to remembering the US military service personnel who devote their lives and safety so that the rest of us civilians can sit back and crack a cold beer and marvel at how life in America is oh, so good. So easy.

Out of the many hundreds of thousands of US military veterans who have contributed to my own daily sense of settled well-being, one recently caught my attention. Not because he was a super warrior who killed many enemies, nor because he was a battlefield hero who risked his own life to save many of our own wounded. What actually struck me was the clean, all-America way that Paul Marino lived his life, raised his wholesome family based on time-tested simple values, worked for a living, contributed to his community and neighbors.

Not that military veterans hold these kinds of qualities exclusively, but we all know many veterans, if not the vast majority, who are exemplary citizens and neighbors. Real stand-outs in terms of their public service, their charitable giving, their easy way with strangers and neighbors. US Army veteran Paul Marino exemplified all of this.

Here is the thing: I did not know or meet Paul Marino. He only came to my attention because he was recently executed with his wife, Lidia, while visiting the grave of their son Anthony in the¬†Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear, Delaware. For years they visited Anthony’s grave there almost daily.

Paul and Lidia were shot in their heads execution-style, from behind, by a 29-year-old man named Sheldon Francis. He used a handgun, up close and personal. By all appearances this was a classic hate crime, Paul and Lidia targeted because of their skin color by a hateful man amped up on a constant barrage of racial hate and jealousy messaging from American campuses, activist groups, American media people, and even from some religious institutions.

Some people have surmised that Paul and Lidia were murdered by Francis in retaliation for the racially motivated murder of Ahmad Aubrey in Georgia earlier this year. I suppose to some people this might make sense, or even be justified. It is not justified, and I have no question that Paul and Lidia would disagree, also, were they alive today to have an opinion on it. After all, they believed in hard work, simple family values, church attendance, community, home, and service. Blind retribution was not in their lexicon.

As a little girl, Lidia remembered the German soldiers marching through her town in Italy, and she also remembered the American GIs marching through from the other direction as the Germans skedaddled in retreat. Lidia knew the value of family, community, and practicing good deeds.

Whatever the reason for Francis gunning down two people in their eighties in a cemetery, the fact remains America is much the poorer for their loss. We lost a solid veteran and his life partner in an unexpected, avoidable, unnecessary, evil way. Paul and Lidia represented the very best of America. The murder represents a culture clash that must be resolved, peacefully and with love, and firmly.

Modern America was built by people like Paul and Lidia Marino. In fact, it is impossible to think of an America without them and their important small, humble, daily positive gifts and services back to all of us. The solid communities they built, the sense of reliable neighborliness they brought to any community they lived in. And the US Army that Paul Marino served in did not so much build Paul up, as people like Paul built up that institution and made it the effective fighting force and great equalizer for Americans of all skin colors and religions that it remains today.

Rest easy, Soldier, and thank you for your many different services you provided to all of us Americans.

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