On Memorial Day, We Must All Remember America's Fallen Heroes
By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Earlier this month, America honored today’s servicemembers by marking Armed Forces Day on May 19. May will end with Memorial Day, a solemn tribute to those who gave their lives in defense of this nation.
The famous American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., spoke of Memorial Day in these words: “So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly.”
Why Should We Remember Memorial Day?
Why we should remember Memorial Day may be a strange question to contemplate. But as we approach this most solemn of all American holidays, far too many of us will think only of barbecues and the kickoff to summer. How many of us will think of those servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we are free to do all the things we want this Memorial Day?
How many of us have a personal connection to a member of the armed forces? Do we even understand why someone joins the armed forces today?
It’s been 17 years since the tragedy of 9/11. That day became a defining moment reminiscent of the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.”
Unlike that day almost 77 years ago, the terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon did not result in a mass mobilization of the armed forces. Every family wasn’t personally linked to the ensuing conflict against religious extremism.
Why Freedom is Worth Defending
In Ronald Reagan’s famous address in 1964, “A Time for Choosing,” he encapsulated the eternal struggle for freedom:
“If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin, just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world’?
“The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, it’s a simple answer after all.”
Three years earlier, President John F. Kennedy had a fitting answer to that question: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Commemorating World War I This Memorial Day
This year commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. How many people truly know about the thousands of Americans whose lives ended at Belleau Wood? How many students know that in France’s Argonne Forest, over 26,000 U.S. troops died in one of the deadliest engagement in U.S. history?
Remembering the Greatest Generation of World War II
Do we know anything about the sacrifices of young Americans who landed at Omaha Beach, at Salerno, or fought at Guadalcanal in the Pacific? They sought to free humanity from the evils of Nazism and Japanese imperialism.
What about the thousands who lost their lives storming the beaches at Normandy to liberate a continent from enslavement? Do people know about the 19,000 who died during the Battle of the Bulge, the second deadliest battle in U.S. history?
How much do we know about the thousands of young men who died in the bloody battle at Tarawa or the U.S. Marines who raised the American flag at Iwo Jima? That horrific battle cost the lives of 7,000 Marines.
Americans Continue to Sacrifice for Freedom
Even after the most destructive war in human history, U.S. service personnel continued to give their lives in places like Korea’s Pork Chop Hill and the Chosin Reservoir and in Vietnam’s rice paddies and jungles.
In recent years, servicemembers have sacrificed their lives in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. Many others have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Whether at Arlington National Cemetery or in Normandy, each grave marker is a monument to the men and woman of this country who stood up for the cause of freedom. These brave souls never questioned their devotion to the cause for which they were fighting. They gave every ounce of themselves to ensure that the United States would remain free.
Kennedy Eloquently Epitomizes the American Spirit
President Kennedy, himself a veteran of World War II, eloquently summed up the American military in his inaugural address: “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.
“I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it – and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”
As we commemorate this Memorial Day, let’s remember its true meaning. Let’s take some time to think about those who unselfishly gave their lives so our nation and the world can remain free.