On this Memorial Day, America is at peace.

At least outside its borders.

While we maintain a military presence still in the Middle East and Africa,(and now Ukraine to some extent) there are no large-scale offensive actions being conducted by US conventional forces for the first time in more than 20 years.

Memorial Day is a national holiday that most people spend at the beach or at cookouts with family and friends, but for service members and their families, it tends to be a bit more solemn.

Not depressing and sad, but it is the day when we tend to recall most keenly those we have served with and were killed either in combat or in the training and operational “mishaps” that happen just because you can’t make serving in the military perfectly safe no matter what you do and still have it be a military.  As we see in Ukraine presently, war is about smashing things to pieces and killing people and the practice of how to do that sort of thing can be dangerous all by itself. A report recently found that between 2006 and 2020, more than 5600 service members have perished in training accidents.  Any civilian occupation killing this many people would have OSHA and the government all over them to make it safer.  As it happens though, the military is exempt from the legal requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, it just couldn’t function while subject to it.

Since the beginning of our country, this experiment in self-government, more than 1 million Americans have perished in defending it in places all over the world, in the skies, on the seas, and even beneath the waves.  Somehow, our country has been able to produce citizen-soldiers equal to anything ever produced by the British Empire or the Romans.

Soldiers are made, not born.  The raw materials are important.  In Ukraine, we see the difference between an army of conscripts driven like cattle into a fight versus a civil population taking up arms to fight for its very existence.  The Ukrainians think they have something worth defending in their country and Americans in uniform tend to think the same thing about this country.  In spite of all its problems and internal strife, we have to build walls and fences to keep people from coming in, and not from escaping to someplace more free with more opportunity. We make good soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen because America as an ideal is the last, best hope of mankind on the planet.

Much is made of what is called “The Greatest Generation” or those Americans who came through the Great Depression and went directly into a World War in 1941 to defeat the Nationalist Socialism of Nazi Germany only to find it had to then hold the line against the Internationalist Socialism of the Soviet Union, North Korea, and China for some 50 years. This generation knew what it was fighting for and what the cost of losing would mean to this country, but I would submit that there may have been a generation even greater.