Yesterday morning in church, our pastor set aside time to recognize current and former members of the US Armed Forces. With a son currently on active duty in the Army and friends currently deployed, I appreciated the recognition as well as the time set aside in the service to pray for our men and women serving in uniform.
I could imagine the same scene repeating itself in churches across the country. I wondered how many of them recognized our military members. More importantly, I wondered how many did not and how many may have actually spoken against them. It's hard for me to imagine but I know there are people in our country who are willing to take the safety and security provided for us by our military and yet excoriate and denigrate the very men and women who make their objections possible. I need only remember what happened to our troops in Oakland, a politician's disrespect for them and a celebrity's dismissal of them as ignorant to know not everyone in our country honored our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in church yesterday. Nor will some do so today.
Which is strange to me considering what this country owes to its military. There are, perhaps, more significant moments in the history of the world that have taken place thanks to the US Armed Forces than owe their existence to anything else.
Consider the events of April 19th, 1775. As the poet wrote, "By the rude bridge which arched the flood/their flag to April's breeze unfurled/here once embattled farmers stood/and fired the shot heard round the world".
Consider the Revolutionary war and the moments it provided at the Delaware's crossing and at Valley Forge.
Consider the Barbary Wars of the early 1800s in which the American military first fought against Islamic fanatics on "... the shores of Tripoli."
Consider the War of 1812 which saw the Battle of New Orleans fought by a future President and the defense of Baltimore which inspired the Star Spangled Banner.
Consider the Civil War, fought to preserve the Union and to extend the rights provided by our Constitution to humans long denied Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Consider the Spanish-American War which produced the phrase "Remember the Maine!" for a destroyed American Man o' War, the charge of the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill and which brought into the orbit of the United States both Cuba and Puerto Rico, among others. It's the reason we have a base at Gitmo in the first place.
Consider WWII which saw the US military free one continent from the brutality of a dictator and another continent from the brutality of an Empire. The Cold War which followed resulted in the US once again freeing the world from the threat of a totalitarian regime and bring Liberty, both national and individual, to millions.
Consider the Korean War with its use of our military to again liberate a people invaded and oppressed by usurpers. It signaled our willingness to not only oppose Communism born in the USSR and its satellites but that born in China and its satellites as well.
Consider the War in Viet Nam which continued that opposition to the spread of Communism in Asia.
Consider the first Gulf War and its swift and decisive end to yet another despot's designs on the effects of a weaker neighbor.
Consider the Second Gulf War and its stand for Liberty and Independence as well as for the voices of the nations which failed in their call for a peaceful resolution and could not find it in themselves to do what must be done to ensure their joint safety.
All these conflicts and more have seen the US Military as the point of the spear which served to bring about Liberty and the Prosperity which naturally follows.
That is what Memorial Day means to me. When I think of Arlington and the resting places at Normandy and thousands of unmarked graves in far flung lands and of the anguish of families who have a loved one classified as POW or MIA. The greatness that is America; the economic engine that drives the world's economy, the gains in industry, science, politics, art, religion and any other field of human endeavor one cares to name - all of them owe their very existence to the men and women who have answered their country's call, as conscript or volunteer, that it was time once again for America to save the day or pave the way.
Call me naive. Call me simple minded or my premise overly simplistic. Call me whatever you like. It matters not. Because I, and people like me, know who you call when the realities of life outside of the haven American military force has built for humanity come a callin'. You don't crack open Alinsky's Rules for Radicals to see what you should do in a situation like this. You don't cry out to those who, in the name of Hope and Change, denigrate our nation while abroad and apologize for it. You don't run for the intellectuals who are free, courtesy of the soldier, to have and read 20 biased newspapers a day.
No. You call for men and women like my son. For men and women like the husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters of so many of my friends and family, on- and offline. You call, not just for the guys with the guns, but for Americans with guns, for the US military. Because you know they'll come, they'll help and they'll leave. And all they ask in payment is a "Thank you!" one day a year - Memorial Day.
I remember ... as do so many. Thank you! For all that all of you have done. Its value is beyond measure.