Throughout the day on Monday and, honestly, throughout the entire weekend, I found myself thinking about the many brave men and women who have sacrificed themselves while wearing an American uniform, and about the families left behind — the children who cannot remember or perhaps never met their mother or father, the husband or wife whose heart will forever leap into their throat at every knock on the front door. I found myself thinking about how average Americans like you and like me can never, ever even come close to repaying these heroes for everything they have endured, everything they have given, everything they have sacrificed. The only thing average Americans like you and like me can do, it seems, is continue their mission.
Of course, I don’t mean that we continue it in a literal sense. We cannot literally fight our way through the hedgerows surrounding Carentan, and scanning the horizon for Japanese Zeros would obviously be pointless now. What I mean is that we should ensure that the values and ideals for which the bravest among us fought continue to be fought for in each and every way we can, and in perpetuity. It may not have occurred to the rapidly-maturing teenager climbing Hill 861 outside of Khe Sahn that he was carrying with him a nation determined to champion freedom across the globe, nor may it have seemed pertinent to the G.I. shivering in a foxhole outside Bastogne that by holding the line against the Germans, he was ensuring the preservation of freedom here at home, but as Americans who enjoy the fruits of the sacrifice made by these men, these women and their families, it is our duty to uphold those values, fight for those principles, and honor those brave souls by never forgetting that they were, and continue to be, a timeless reminder of the greatness of the United States of America.
When it comes to the safety of our men and women abroad, as well as the security of those of us at home, decisions need to be made because they are good and because they are right, not because they are politically expedient or politically correct. War should be treated as such; the same goes for adversaries. Policy should be driven by that which is required by and for success, not merely by the desire to satisfy one group or another. Members of our military should be heralded as heroes, not prosecuted as criminals, or dismissed as intellectually inferior.
So far as I know, my family has been fortunate as to never have lost someone on the battlefield. My late uncle was a tunnel rat in Vietnam, written up in Stars and Stripes for having discovered a pair of Viet Cong waiting in an underground chimney-type structure to surprise American troops above, and then having dispatched them with his shovel after his weapon jammed. He died a few years ago, a wonderful man who returned home not quite the same as he had left. His father, my grandfather, was a flight instructor. He taught pilots to fly B-17 bombers in advance of World War II, but never flew in the war itself. He passed on about ten years ago, and is sorely missed.
My uncle and grandfather survived their service, but so many people have friends and family members who did not. Still more have seen others make that ultimate sacrifice firsthand. At the very least, we as Americans owe those brave Americans the assurance that every decision we make shall be founded in those very ideals, values and principles for which they fought and died. Every decision, from the new legislation which intrudes upon American freedoms at home, to the foreign policy doctrine that stifles the growth of freedom overseas, with no exceptions.
For example, when weighing our options with regard to North Korea, which just this weekend tested a nuclear bomb and assorted delivery mechanisms, we should look at not only how we can ensure the continued safety, security and freedom of the American people in the States, but also how we can preserve the freedom for which we’ve spilled blood on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere in the Pacific theater. Or, when we weigh economic policy and further action here at home, we should consider how the expansion of the scope of the federal government infringes upon the freedoms of those very American families which have provided our nation with the heroes depended upon by the rest of the world.
Americans have fought and died to push back enemy lines, to hold a position, to liberate a country or to rescue a single individual, to bring freedom to the doors of those who have never tasted it, and in response to attacks on our own. As another Memorial Day has come and gone, as flags are pulled from so many yards and flower pots across this great land and replaced in the garage or shed until Flag Day, or Independence Day, or Veteran’s Day, let us never forget that those among us who were brave enough to run toward gunfire and danger rather than retreat from it, those of us who died in the service of this great nation, have done so that we can live our lives in freedom. Let us take our own stand, and preserve that freedom at all costs.