As of Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Editor’s preface: Of our many holidays, Memorial Day is a standout for encouraging remembrance of those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. Much has been said as to the “why” of this commemoration, and one of our favorites comes from a 1997 Army speech given out from the 279th Base Support Battalion in Germany. Here follows a portion:
[For nearly 240] years our military has provided a bastion against our enemies. In that time, our world has changed and our armed forces have changed with it, but the valor, dignity, and courage of the men and women in uniform remain the same.
The founders of the United States understood that the military would be the rampart from which America would guard its freedom. George Washington once stated, “By keeping up in Peace a well-regulated and disciplined militia, we shall take the fairest and best method to preserve for a long time to come the happiness, dignity and Independence of our country.” The prophecy of those words has been fulfilled time and again.
The cost of that vision has been tremendous, for the periods of peace our country has enjoyed are few. The longest time of complete tranquility for our armed forces was the 23 years between World Wars One and Two. Since the Revolutionary War, more than 42 million men and women have served in America’s military. More than 600,000 of those dauntless, selfless warriors died in combat.
But why are we so seemingly willing to fight and, if need be, to die? The answer to that question is as simple — and yet as complex — as the soul of America itself. We fight because we believe. Not that war is good, but that sometimes it is necessary. Our soldiers fight and die not for the glory of war, but for the prize of freedom. The words of the philosopher John Stuart Mill say it best: “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight; nothing he cares more about than his own personal safety; is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free….”
And, the heart of America is freedom, for ourselves and all nations willing to fight for it. Yes, the price is high, but freedom is a wealth no debt can encumber.
So, we choose to remember the past because the payment for forgetfulness is dear — sacrifice, service, duty … and many times, injury and death paid by gallant, heroic men and women. Only fools would elect to forget so expensive a lesson.