The United States is the oldest republic in the world, with a Constitution that is one of the noblest and most enduring works of humanity. When one strips away the distracting symbols of modern America – NASCAR, Hollywood, fast food and iPods – one finds the most pluralistic and enduring society in history. Despite our modernity and penchant for change, we have upheld the ideals enunciated more than 200 years ago by our founding fathers – the root of them being that all are created equal and have a right to pursue happiness.
From the start, Americans have not remained in blissful possession of our freedom and Constitution without cost. To us, the very idea that freedom and democracy extract a cost in blood is second nature and hardwired into American DNA.
This freedom is guaranteed by the solider. And for today, “soldier” refers to anyone who ever wore the uniform of the American Military.
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
G.K. Chesterton once wrote “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” American soldiers know that their service demands loving home so much that they willingly leave it – giving up all that is cherished — freedom, youth, love, even life — so that others may enjoy what is voluntarily forsaken by them for the good of others.
On holidays like Memorial Day, we think of the parades. We recall the gregarious World War II soldiers and sailors, eager to share stories, Korean vets who suffered in the cold and stolid Vietnam-era soldiers reticent to talk much about their war. We think of many men and women who served in Beirut, Bosnia, the Persian Gulf and today’s War on Terror.
In airports I have seen countless soldiers leaving for distant land and sea dressed in the apparel of war. No matter the letters, pictures, videos and Facebook posts – it can never replace the time and youth sacrificed. Their lives are a gift to us, at times the ultimate gift, and it is a process as old as history, altered only by our ability to travel and communicate efficiently.
War is not hell, it is incomprehensible.
The utter chaos and impartial evil of combat makes the most incessant talker place the actual experiences deep into the silence of his own heart, rarely if ever, revealed in full. Countless things said and unsaid, acts made and not made with no rehearsal. Terrors so deep that the soul screams to its Creator while the intellect attempts to process things at 2330 feet per second. Such experiences – translated in the press as sacrifices demand a particular reverence which brings us to today.
Memorial Day is about those whose lives have protected the Constitution. Their collective gift to us is recalled the last Monday of every May. President Lincoln, standing before the graves of nearly 50,000 soldiers said “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
“A new birth of freedom…” Service, death, remembrance, and the re-birth of our still living, still beloved, country are the unspoken first principles the soldier of every era lives and principals holidays like this recall. Memorial Day is not the day to argue politics—above all the politics of the present much-disputed war. On the contrary, it is a day to recall with gratitude the sacrifices that protect our very unique opportunity to dispute.
On Memorial Day we recall our first principals. We are Americans. As such we are committed to freedom and to the proposition that all are equal and have inalienable rights. We are the most formidable and exceptional nation in history because we believe this proposition to be so valuable that it is worth dying for.