Doing the right thing and confining one’s self to bed when ill provides a good deal of time to just think. As plans for the long weekend fall to the wayside one-by-one and time turns on itself and morphs the nights into days as the deep, healing sleep comes in its stereotypical fits and starts, there comes the inevitable moment when one must choose between regret and acceptance. And in that choice comes the opportunity for clarity, for the choice of acceptance brings the realization that so much of what we do is busyness simply for the sake of busyness. A truth is that our priorities are so often just plain silly. Barbeques and planting flowers may somehow satisfy the soul, and indeed such things have their place, but I believe a well-lived life must also include time for reflection. For, in the words of Edmund Burke repeated so often these days, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
Particularly today, Memorial Day, thoughts go to the idea that America sets aside a day on which to specifically remember those who have given their lives in service to this country. There have been so many willing to lay their lives on the line to protect and defend the rest of us; indeed, our country’s birth was, like all births, a bloody one. But the principles that spurred so much bloodshed were sound, and the result was the greatest nation in the history of civilization. With the crystal clarity of 20/20 hindsight and the wisdom to see into a future where men would continue to forget their history lessons, the Founding Fathers incorporated the very best of all that had come before; America has continued to be a “melting pot” but it was Her foundations – our basic freedoms – that have protected us.
Such protections have been a beacon to the rest of the world, and with that has come the inevitable envy and the flat-out hatred from those who would wish to have our might and our productivity while maintaining a tyrannical grip. Such a thing is impossible, of course, and so it is that our freedoms have required defending. American independence is a tangible thing and no outsider has ever stood a chance of taking it away from us.
We have fought great wars in defense of freedom. And we have lent our strength to other countries whose people shared the same dream to live just as freely, for we are also a generous nation. We not only give financially, but we have given our sons and our daughters that others may make manifest the natural goodness of the American experience. We have also fought with enormous heartbreak against ourselves, north against south, yet again and most importantly done solely in defense of freedom; in defense of our simple, basic tenet that:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
It is never really a good day to die. Yet that is the risk freely accepted by those who go forth on our behalf to meet the enemy face-to-face. I have known many of these men, those who have fought on the front lines, those who have watched their brothers fall yet somehow managed to come back to us, and I can tell you that to shoulder this responsibility changes a person in a way that those even who serve in more supportive military roles do not change . Those who have smelled the fear and the blood, those who have heard the battle cries and screams of terror and pain are, unlike their supporters both in and out of the military, in the main quite quiet men. They simply don’t talk about it much, they keep their memories and the nightmares to themselves, but I know that for every one of them every day is Memorial Day.
Most Americans can’t even bear to know how their meat gets to their dinner table so there is a kind of wisdom in the silence of our front-line veterans. I don’t imagine there are really even words to describe the horrors of war, though documentary after documentary still tries. Yet even to me, one who only knows the smallest of their memories, it is clear so many stories of battles are, for lack of a better word, sanitized. Perhaps it is simply just another way those who are willing to take the greatest risk continue to protect us?
I do not know, really. But as this Memorial Day goes by and I think of all of those who “gave their all” so that I might lay here in peace, with opportunity to simply contemplate, what I do know is that I am grateful to them. Their legacy is something that has always been good, and though now the enemy within has become as dangerous as the enemies without, their legacy must be preserved.
To them, I say thank you. However it is within my power, I will do all that I can to insure that it may never be said that you died in vain.
Though it seems that the majority of people focus on this long holiday weekend as being the start of summer and therefore the perfect excuse to party, Memorial Day is when we remember those who “gave it all” in service to this great nation. From the first moment of the American Revolution, there have always been those willing to take up their arms and make manifest our collective belief in the principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” against those who would seek to destroy it.
It is not an easy thing to die in defense of one’s beliefs. Ask any veteran who has experienced combat or ask any family who has watched their son or daughter, father or mother, husband or wife bravely wave one last time as they walk onto the ship or airplane or bus that will take them to join their comrades; we may shed a tear at the news of the fallen, but it is they who must forever live with the real nightmares.
In yesterday’s radio address, President Obama said:
“Our fighting men and women – and the military families who love them – embody what is best in America. And we have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they serve all of us.
And yet, all too often in recent years and decades, we, as a nation, have failed to live up to that responsibility. We have failed to give them the support they need or pay them the respect they deserve. That is a betrayal of the sacred trust that America has with all who wear – and all who have worn – the proud uniform of our country.”
While I agree with his first sentence, I take great offense at the audacity of his second. Perhaps this is an example of the blindness of self-righteousness; having been raised by socialists and raised abroad, a life lived in the bubble of “progressive” liberal academia and buddied-up with radicals, it seems that President Obama doesn’t remember what disrespect of our fighting men and women really means. I do remember, though. The protests against the war in Vietnam, the horrible, rude treatment of returning service personnel – including being spat upon and called “baby killers” – and then the collective mea culpa that came with Desert Storm. We, the people, made a vow we would not repeat our mistakes. We, the people, may not have liked the decision that led to sending our military service personnel to the Middle East but, despite Obama’s convenient memory lapse, we supported our troops. Just the other day I came across an old sweatshirt lovingly stashed away; it is proudly emblazoned with the words, “These Colors Don’t Run”. Those words, and that support, still rings true today.
I, like many others, have been touched personally by both World Wars, by Vietnam, by Desert Storm, and by 9/11. I, like many others, hold our military personnel in high regard. I know of no veteran – including my own spouse – who does not in turn respect former President Bush and former Vice-President Dick Cheney. They know full well that they had the unwavering support of both men, and they know that support continues to be unwaveringly demonstrated. They see Obama’s continuing slander against the Bush administration for what it is – a sly and snarky attempt to demand what is, quite rightly, unearned and therefore undeserved respect, and hence a back-handed slap of them, too.
And so by disrespecting his predecessors and our troops, on this Memorial Day weekend, President Obama speaks ill of the dead. Like so much of his incoherent, nonsensical rhetoric, it is yet another shameful example of the dangers we now face within our own borders.
As the long weekend rolls on, and especially tomorrow, it is those who are no longer able to raise their glasses in a toast to freedom of whom I will be thinking. Haunted by chairs and tables that are not empty, but instead filled with the greatest courage. And remembering the words of this one soldier, who so eloquently spoke out against the election of Barack Hussein Obama.