(By Ron Fay) It’s difficult to imagine why someone would sacrifice their life for their country.
Many have done it and some are still doing it today.
With Memorial Day coming, I’ve thought a lot about this lately. Four decades ago when I was 18 years old and enlisted in the USAF, I would have died for my country. Born to a veteran father and raised by WWII veteran stepdad, it was the honorable path to put your life on the line for our country. I enlisted in the USAF during peacetime, so risk was low, but I knew the possibilities and was mentally prepared.
I was ready, but I don’t believe I really thought it through. Brainwashed? Maybe. Probably.
When you enlist in a branch of the Armed Forces, you take an oath. The oath promises to defend the Constitution and obey the President through the chain of command. Frankly, I knew little about the Constitution when I signed up. What I knew was that we were a free country and that a lot of people gave their lives to keep it that way: 406,399 in WWII, 36,516 in Korea, and 58,209 in Vietnam to name the recent major conflicts at the time.
These men and women gave up everything – but why?
I doubt the majority of our men and women serving their country are Constitutional scholars. I believe for most of us, the Preamble lays out the best reason why we would make the ultimate sacrifice:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
“Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”.
I believe most military people share Braveheart’s final cry of “freedom” as the number one reason they are willing to sacrifice everything – die – for this country. It is the freedom of our nation for the present and the future they are defending.
It can be difficult for some to imagine why a person would surrender their life for a value such as “freedom”, particularly if all you’ve known is freedom your entire life. It’s quite normal to take it for granted.
But it is not granted. It was fought for by men and women who value it.
And that’s why they are willing to give it all up; as there is nothing more noble or honorable than making the ultimate sacrifice for others.
So how do you honor those that gave all (and of course those that gave some)?
Maybe have a parade. Hang a flag out. Thank a Service Person.
Though veterans everywhere will appreciate a kind gesture demonstrating your appreciation for those that died for us, we should do more than that. We need to do more than that.
We honor our veterans who gave all by protecting the things they died for. We should let no one take our freedoms away and we should always be looking out for future generations.
This doesn’t just happen just on Memorial Day. This happens every day.
This is our debt to those that fought and died for us. It is a small price to pay on our part for what they paid to get us here.
For Christians like myself, our faith is based on this concept. We honor Jesus Christ’s sacrifice by following his example and standing up for the values He died for.
So what can we do to honor the memory of the fallen and preserve freedom for all now and in the future? Here’s a partial list:
- Recognize that freedom is constantly under attack. As an example, in just in the last few months, our Constitutional right to gather and assemble for religious purposes was trampled on.
- Don’t accept the premise that government knows what’s good for you better than you. The hair on the back of your neck should rise any time a politician says that a right is being “suspended” “for your own good”. This is a phrase used by dictators for centuries to control the people.
- Watch for over-reaching political leaders. We are a Republic! Our elected local leaders must have a say.
- Be informed of what’s going on and look out for our future. The National debt in this country is a ball and chain for our children. We allowed this to happen and have no one to blame but ourselves. History has shown that every major world power since the Romans has gone through devaluing their currency to buy things they can’t afford.
- Be active in government. Don’t be lulled into complacency. You are responsible for what happens. The best way we can honor all of our military is to make sure they are not put in harm’s way unnecessarily. We should not be the world’s police force and not one life should be sacrificed for oil.
- And finally, DON’T LET THE GOVERNMENT AND THE MEDIA SCARE YOU INTO COMPLIANCE. Every person that died in war was likely scared. They were scared when they signed up, scared when they got their orders and scared when they went on their last mission. But fear didn’t disable them. They stayed the course – for all of us and our futures. This is the definition of courage.
As many veterans will attest to, the pursuit of Liberty is not pretty. Having courage and standing up for what our service people died for is the only effective tribute to their sacrifice and memory. Anything short of that is just window dressing.
We need to do all these things so that every day is Memorial Day.
Ron Fay, P.E.