Memorial Day by Tom Reynolds
I read an article by a man who was in a Nazi death camp as a child. He remembered that towards the end of the war, the prisoners were deathly afraid that the guards would execute them. So, when the prisoners were loaded into a box car, they were terrified.
The boy’s father peered through the slats in the side of the car to see what was happening and when he said “there are armed men coming down the road”, there was panic.
But then he said…“It’s the Americans.”
Other than “He is risen,” no three words have ever meant as much to so many people as, “It’s the Americans.”
On the 40th anniversary of D-Day, Ronald Reagan spoke at Point Du Hoc, which is a cliff on the Normandy coast. On D-Day, U S Army rangers scaled that cliff under murderous fire. They took great casualties, but they took the cliff. 40 years later, in front of Reagan were the living survivors of those rangers. Reagan praised them and by extension, all the many victories for freedom that “it’s the Americans” have led.
Reagan said, “Behind me is a monument that symbolizes the daggers, thrust into the top of the cliff by the army rangers. And in front of me are the men who put them there.”
“You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.”
“The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge – and pray God we have not lost it – that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.”
“It’s the Americans” who came on D-Day to Point Du Hoc and the liberation of Europe had begun.
In 1966, French President Charles De Gaulle told U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk that De Gaulle wanted "every American soldier out of France." Rusk replied, "Does that include the dead Americans in the military cemeteries as well?" De Gaulle was silent.
Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller interrupted his career and was one of the first professional baseball players to enlist immediately after Pearl Harbor. When he was being honored after coming back in 1945, he said, “The real heroes didn’t come home.”
In the American Revolution, 31,000 soldiers and sailors died. They died for a country that didn’t exist and they would never see.
In the Civil War, 364,000 Union soldiers and sailors died. They may have fought to save the Union or to free the slaves, or both, but for whatever reason they fought. Their sacrifices turned the name United States from a plural into a singular and put us on the road to making “all men are created equal,” a fact.
In World War II, 405,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen died. As Reagan said, they came “to liberate, not to conquer.”
In all wars, a total of 1,354,000 Americans have died and another 1,498,000 were wounded.
Remember when we proudly said: “I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” That’s what Americans died for.
America was not founded on slavery. The pilgrims and puritans came here for religious freedom. That’s what Americans died for.
Before our Constitution, people were “servants of the king” - not citizens. 11 score and 14 years ago, that changed. That’s what Americans died for.
You may remember a hit song from years ago: The Impossible Dream. It sang about righting the unrightable, bearing the unbearable and fighting the unbeatable. That’s very inspiring but, if you think about it, who would want to do that? Right the unrightable? Bear the unbearable? Fight the unbeatable? That’s crazy. But the song also gave a reason to fight: so “My heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest….and the world will be better for this.”
Those 1,354,000 Americans who were killed have hearts lying peacefully and calm. The world was better for them having lived.
It’s a fair statement that everyone now living will eventually be laid to their rest. Will hearts lie peaceful and calm because they did their duty? Will the world be better for them having lived?
America is the last best hope of mankind and worthy of our efforts, past and present, to preserve it.
On Memorial Day, we honor those that gave their lives for our country. But Lincoln put it best at Gettysburg: “The brave men, living and dead…have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”
There is much to be proud of in our history, but there are now foreign and domestic enemies that would destroy the values, traditions and our very Constitution. In doing so, they also sully the cherished memory of those we honor.
We didn’t ask for this fight to preserve what they died for, but it has been thrown upon us by those that don’t learn from history or try to twist it for their own purposes.
Our founders gave us the structure that made the United States the greatest country in the history of the world - if we can keep it. It’s our right and our duty to preserve our Constitution against all enemies - foreign and domestic – and in doing so we meaningfully honor those that fell in our nation’s defense.
The same questions echo across the years for all those called to duty in defense of our nation and our values: We didn’t ask for this fight, but if not us… who? If not now…when?
We must rise to the challenge so generations yet unborn will remember that whenever our country and all of mankind was threatened, it’s the Americans who rose up to defend it. And the government of the people, by the people and for the people did not perish from the earth.
And those future generations will proudly say the same words I end this: God bless the United States of America and all those who died to preserve that nation.