Sunday, May 30, 2010

On Memorial Day.

There are 1,541 American men buried in Suresnes, France. In the cemetery at Meusse-Argonne, 14,246. At St. Mihiel, there are 4,153, and in Lorraine lie 10,489 of our military dead.

There are others in France: in Somme, in the Rhone valley, in Aisne-Marne and in Brittany, all hallowed ground where the mortal remains of fathers, sons and husbands sent by their countrymen to defend freedom, lie under stark, white crosses, a silent testament to the goodness and greatness of the United States of America.

They died in Sicily - almost 8,000 are buried there, and in Florence over 4,400; men who fought to liberate Italy from the tyranny of fascism. And there are more than 5,000 American dead in Luxembourg.

At Henri-Chapelle lie the bodies of 7,992; in Ardennes, 5,329, and to end this incomplete list, 528 Americans are buried where they fell – in Flanders fields, where poppies grow. These three cemeteries are in Belgium.

All are in Europe. I have not even touched upon the war in the Pacific. To do so would be almost incomprehensible; in total, American military deaths during World War II alone numbered over 400,000.

Let the numbers wash over you – don’t permit yourself to be so overwhelmed that they become meaningless. Think hard, concentrate on the magnitude of the sacrifice, feel the pain of so many tens of thousands – hundreds of thousands - of mothers who watched their little boys answer the call to defend freedom everywhere – because that’s what Americans do. And make no mistake, no matter what their age, to those mothers they were all just little boys.

Close your eyes for a few moments and think about these things, and you will find when you open them that Memorial Day will mean something just a little different than it did before.

There are almost no words to describe the debt we owe to those men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion to the cause of liberty, a debt that is owed by free men and women everywhere, because without the armed forces of the United States, there would be freedom nowhere.

Reflect on the magnitude of America’s sacrifice to the world. We were not fighting for our own liberation – we were fighting for others bound to us by a single tie: a belief that freedom and liberty are the natural state of man, and that tyranny is to be fought and defeated no matter the cost.

We can honor them in no greater way than to dedicate ourselves to those principles. We can never forget them, we can never lose our way, and we can never permit anyone to tell us we are the problem, not the solution.

We must condemn and reject those who suggest it, whether the calumny be uttered by a foreign potentate or, sadly and inexplicably, a member of our own government.

And above all, we must never, never apologize for America’s role in the world, and we must vow to never let freedom slip through our fingers. To do so not only cheapens the lives of those we honor today, it condemns them to the pure hell of having died in vain.