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.
Those men and even women who fought in the American Revolution. They grew up under the rule of an absolute monarchy, in which the king or queen held all the human rights under Heaven for themselves and only doled out little pieces to their subjects who still only acted in furtherance of the ruler’s desires. If the Sovereign decided he needed more from you in taxes, you had no choice but to hand over your money. If they decided to lead the country into war, you were compelled to fight, no matter what your feelings were. And you were free to live, think, speak and worship God only as long as the ruler approved of what you were doing. His signature at the bottom of a piece of paper was enough to send you to the hangman.
When these American Colonists decided to fight for independence they were not fighting for their country, but for the mere idea of what it might be. They died on battlefields like Saratoga, Cowpens, Yorktown, and Breed’s Hill for a kind of freedom they would never know themselves. They died for future Americans they hoped someday would be born in a free country of their own. Those soldiers of the Revolution gave up all their tomorrows so that we could have our today nearly 250 years later.
Today is Memorial Day when we give solemn remembrance and gratitude to those Americans who lost their lives preserving our freedom and liberty for us and future generations. Enjoy your day, have fun and maybe marvel a bit that we still produce Americans willing to give up the luxury and soft living this rich country of ours can provide for the privation and sacrifice that goes with military service.
Because it is worth defending with our lives.