Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Thoughts from Memorial Day

Victor Davis Hanson started off another excellent, must read essay with this:

There may be a lot to regret about the past policy of the United States in the Middle East, but the removal of Saddam Hussein and the effort to birth democracy in his place is surely not one of them. And we should remember that this Memorial Day.

Hanson ended his short summary of accomplishment in Iraq and the Middle East with this:

Reading about Gettysburg, Okinawa, Choisun, Hue, and Mogadishu is often to wonder how such soldiers did what they did. Yet never has America asked its youth to fight under such a cultural, political, and tactical paradox as in Iraq, as bizarre a mission as it is lethal. And never has the American military — especially the U.S. Army and Marines — in this, the supposedly most cynical and affluent age of our nation, performed so well.
We should remember the achievement this Memorial Day of those in the field who alone crushed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, stayed on to offer a new alternative other than autocracy and theocracy, and kept a targeted United States safe from attack for over four years.

I saw all kinds of links to this, just to name a few, Instapundit, Cannoneer #4 , Soldier's Mom at Milblogs.  

I thought Hanson’s the best of pieces on Memorial Day, until I came across Ben Stein’s very moving piece in the American Spectator (also via Milblogs).

Stein spoke at a Saturday evening event for the Memorial Day weekend seminar and grief camp of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
This man has a heart for the US Military, and if you’ve never read anything by Stein, or if you know him only through movie or television appearances, you need to read the whole thing. Forget the disclaimer, you need to read it all even if you know this side of Stein.

Stein speak with deep feeling and humility. H presents a stark contrasts of two very different sorts of “bad days” to set his tone of reverence for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who they left behind:

A bad day for me is when I get stuck in traffic or have a toothache or notice that I have gained weight or my teenage son is surly.
A bad day for you is realizing that the only man or woman you have ever loved is gone for this lifetime.
A difficult day for me with my wife is when she's out at her bridge lesson and comes home late so my dinner is late.
A difficult day for you is when you wake up from a dream that your husband or wife or son or daughter or mother or father was alive and laughing with you and realize you'll never see that loveable person again for the rest of your natural lives.
A bad day for an ordinary American is seeing the stock market go down or watching his son sneak a beer.
A bad day for you is a sort of loneliness, a hopeless, cruel loneliness that cuts right to the bone like the cut of a knife, that tells you that there is no one there to hug you, no one to kiss you, no one to fix the kids' bikes, no one to wipe away the tears that just come uncontrollably when you least expect them.
A bad day for me is getting stuck in an airport security line. A bad day for you is being on the plane alone.

Yet your loneliness has meaning. Your loneliness, your pain, is the mortar and concrete that anchors the nation. The sacrifice your loved ones made, the sacrifice you made, that your kids made, is what makes the whole American world safe from terror.

Can there be any more stark reminder of what we memorialize on holidays such as Memorial Day? Can there be any more obvious demonstration of selfless service or sacrifice, than a military family surrendering their loved ones in service to their nation?

Stein offers high honor to his audience, and commends them for the work they do for their Creator:

John F. Kennedy said that here on earth, God's work is our work. That doesn't mean Wall Street's work. It doesn't mean the Washington Post's work. It doesn't mean Hollywood's work. It means the work you guys do and the work of your husbands and wives and kids. Living and dying for your fellow man. That is God's work in the deepest sense, and God bless you for what you do, and God keep you until you are with your loved ones again.

God blesses such as these. Those who have died for their country, for us. Those they have left behind, who joined them forever in their final sacrifice, who must live on with remembrance of great loves lost, without their physical touch or earthly presence.

If you neglected Memorial Day this year, if you shy away from the political arguments that rage, about Iraq, Iran, or the threat of Global Terrorisms, at least do one thing.

Find a way to acknowledge and honor those soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines, who at the fullest expense of their families, have given the last full measure of devotion. We must do more than just bury these heroes, we must find the public ways to praise them.

If you are still catching up from a weekend away – as I am – check out the tributes offered by several of the Milblogs: Castle Argghhh!, Smash and Smash, and Blackfive.

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