A Thank You on Memorial Day

A soldier, a small American flag on the shoulder of his jacket, slowly walks through the streets of a once-bustling city now lying in rubble. The still-upright walls, their windows and doors blown out, appear as skeletons framed by the blue sky. He steps carefully around the broken bricks and shattered glass, alert to any noise or movement. 

The soldier hears a faint stirring and, wheeling around, rifle at the ready, sees a young girl perhaps five or six years of age slowly walking towards him. Her tattered clothes barely cover her emaciated frame. Their eyes meet. The soldier sees eyes that have lost their sparkle and now reflect only the weariness of war and the never-ending struggle for survival.

He offers his hand to her, and, while wary, she senses a genuine kindness in his demeanor. They share a chocolate bar, and in spite of their inability to communicate, there is an instant bond. Soon three other children appear from behind the shattered walls. Welcoming them into the group, the soldier, with a gentle smile, gives all his rations to the youngsters. For an hour or two, they sit and talk to each other as best as they can while the thoughts of the young man gradually turn to the memory of his childhood and family in a small town so far away.

When the time comes for the soldier to depart, the little girl tugs on his sleeve and with tears in her eyes hugs him and kisses him on the cheek. The soldier turns away to go back into the bloody cauldron of war, but he leaves behind children who for the rest of their lives will cherish the memory of that day and of the young man from another country who showed them such  genuine friendship and kindness.

The following day, a sniper's bullet finds its mark, and the same young man so full of hopes and dreams lies dead beneath a splintered oak tree.

But in the street of a devastated city thousands of miles from his home, the soldier shared a fleeting moment of peace and tranquility with a new family: those he and his fellow Americans had freed from a life of slavery and oppression.

The country whence this soldier came, the United States of America, is unique in the annals of mankind. When attacked by foreign powers, the United States never viewed those incidents as a pretext to conquer and permanently subjugate other nations. Rather, this country, in the pursuit of self-defense, also aspired to the noble calling of freeing others from tyranny and allowing the people of those nations to establish their own governments based on freedom and liberty.

The basic tenets in the founding of the United States -- 1) that all men are endowed by God with certain inalienable rights, and 2) that the individual and not the state is paramount -- enabled the creation of a society that fostered love and respect, not only of country, but of fellow man, regardless of where he might live.

It is this distinctive trait among all global communities which has motivated countless American men and women over the years to willingly take up arms to defend a land they cherish and to expend blood and treasure so others can live in peace and freedom.

American military cemeteries, with their verdant fields of seemingly endless rows of monuments marking the graves of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, dot the globe. The sons and daughters of the United States interred there now reside in the pantheon of the most noble and heroic in the history of man.

Those who were liberated, initially preoccupied with rebuilding and getting on with their shattered lives, sometimes have failed to acknowledge their debt to those living and dead who rescued them and succeeding generations from lives of tyranny and repression. As the years march inexorably on, the memory of the past, and particularly the most unpleasant chapters, are pushed into the recesses of daily consciousness. With each new generation, the knowledge and experience of war and survival are replaced with the demands of day-to-day living and an unfortunate tendency to fall prey to the false but fashionable proclivity of blaming the United States for all the world's ills.  

But the various countries of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East who have experienced peace and prosperity for years or decades would not have done so without the willingness of the United States to expend the lives and wealth of its citizens.

On Memorial Day, when Americans honor the memory of those who without hesitation paid the ultimate price to defend the United States, it is fitting that the people and their progeny around the world whose lives were so impacted by these same sacrifices pause and express their gratitude.

As a survivor of World War II and someone who was brought to the United States as an orphaned child and a "displaced person," I speak for the countless millions who cannot or are unable when I say, Thank You.
A soldier, a small American flag on the shoulder of his jacket, slowly walks through the streets of a once-bustling city now lying in rubble. The still-upright walls, their windows and doors blown out, appear as skeletons framed by the blue sky. He steps carefully around the broken bricks and shattered glass, alert to any noise or movement. 

The soldier hears a faint stirring and, wheeling around, rifle at the ready, sees a young girl perhaps five or six years of age slowly walking towards him. Her tattered clothes barely cover her emaciated frame. Their eyes meet. The soldier sees eyes that have lost their sparkle and now reflect only the weariness of war and the never-ending struggle for survival.

He offers his hand to her, and, while wary, she senses a genuine kindness in his demeanor. They share a chocolate bar, and in spite of their inability to communicate, there is an instant bond. Soon three other children appear from behind the shattered walls. Welcoming them into the group, the soldier, with a gentle smile, gives all his rations to the youngsters. For an hour or two, they sit and talk to each other as best as they can while the thoughts of the young man gradually turn to the memory of his childhood and family in a small town so far away.

When the time comes for the soldier to depart, the little girl tugs on his sleeve and with tears in her eyes hugs him and kisses him on the cheek. The soldier turns away to go back into the bloody cauldron of war, but he leaves behind children who for the rest of their lives will cherish the memory of that day and of the young man from another country who showed them such  genuine friendship and kindness.

The following day, a sniper's bullet finds its mark, and the same young man so full of hopes and dreams lies dead beneath a splintered oak tree.

But in the street of a devastated city thousands of miles from his home, the soldier shared a fleeting moment of peace and tranquility with a new family: those he and his fellow Americans had freed from a life of slavery and oppression.

The country whence this soldier came, the United States of America, is unique in the annals of mankind. When attacked by foreign powers, the United States never viewed those incidents as a pretext to conquer and permanently subjugate other nations. Rather, this country, in the pursuit of self-defense, also aspired to the noble calling of freeing others from tyranny and allowing the people of those nations to establish their own governments based on freedom and liberty.

The basic tenets in the founding of the United States -- 1) that all men are endowed by God with certain inalienable rights, and 2) that the individual and not the state is paramount -- enabled the creation of a society that fostered love and respect, not only of country, but of fellow man, regardless of where he might live.

It is this distinctive trait among all global communities which has motivated countless American men and women over the years to willingly take up arms to defend a land they cherish and to expend blood and treasure so others can live in peace and freedom.

American military cemeteries, with their verdant fields of seemingly endless rows of monuments marking the graves of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, dot the globe. The sons and daughters of the United States interred there now reside in the pantheon of the most noble and heroic in the history of man.

Those who were liberated, initially preoccupied with rebuilding and getting on with their shattered lives, sometimes have failed to acknowledge their debt to those living and dead who rescued them and succeeding generations from lives of tyranny and repression. As the years march inexorably on, the memory of the past, and particularly the most unpleasant chapters, are pushed into the recesses of daily consciousness. With each new generation, the knowledge and experience of war and survival are replaced with the demands of day-to-day living and an unfortunate tendency to fall prey to the false but fashionable proclivity of blaming the United States for all the world's ills.  

But the various countries of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East who have experienced peace and prosperity for years or decades would not have done so without the willingness of the United States to expend the lives and wealth of its citizens.

On Memorial Day, when Americans honor the memory of those who without hesitation paid the ultimate price to defend the United States, it is fitting that the people and their progeny around the world whose lives were so impacted by these same sacrifices pause and express their gratitude.

As a survivor of World War II and someone who was brought to the United States as an orphaned child and a "displaced person," I speak for the countless millions who cannot or are unable when I say, Thank You.