A Memorial Day Reminder (and a Thank You)

The people of United States, a nation struggling to regain a sense of optimism and confidence, have, over many years, been told by a preponderance of the elites in American society that their country is one of an ignoble nature and history.  That “American Exceptionalism” is a myth that has precipitated the plunder of the planet and the exploitation of mankind throughout the world. 

This is a nation whose alleged sins have been portrayed as so egregious that the current president, whose primary campaign promise was to “fundamentally transform America,” feels duty bound to go around the world on bended knee apologizing for those perceived transgressions. 

The United States has become a ship without a rudder aimlessly wandering about the turbulent seas, piloted by those who only interest is themselves, their ideology, and their thirst for power.  Far too many Americans, by dint of a deliberately woeful education and never ceasing propaganda spewed by a majority of the Ruling Class, do not know that they have in their possession the key to a prosperous and equitable society: individual freedom and liberty concurrent with a significant constraint on the power of the central government.

They do not appreciate that in the annals of mankind the true account of America’s contribution to the world and its people is one of magnificent achievement, whether freeing millions from tyranny by force of arms or dramatically improving their standard of living by fostering global economic growth as well as new and ever evolving technology.  

Perhaps the one thing above all others, that a majority in the United States do not appreciate, is the indispensible and unprecedented role this nation has played in giving hope and a real-life vision of the blessings of true freedom and liberty to countless millions throughout the world.  Nothing this country has done in its history can compare to being what Ronald Reagan referred to as “The Shining City on the Hill.”

For many Memorial Day has become nothing more than a three-day weekend marking the symbolic beginning of the summer holiday season.  Nonetheless, befitting the true intent of Memorial Day, the following is a tale emblematic of the strain of honor and bravery that still permeates the American character.  While this story took place in Europe in the waning days of World War II, it could have been set in the Philippines, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq or countless other nations:

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 ruin.  The few still upright walls serve as perfect cover for an ambush or a sniper’s liar.  His senses honed to a fine razors edge to react to the slightest sound or movement, he steps carefully around the broken bricks and shattered glass.

The soldier hears a faint stirring behind him and wheeling around, rifle at the ready in anticipation of the worst, he sees, instead, a young girl perhaps five or six years of age slowly walking towards him.  Her tattered clothes barely able to cover her emaciated frame.  Their eyes meet as kindred spirits.  In the cauldron that is unconditional war, the psyche of the soldier has been dulled by the weariness of battle and that of the child by 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 though unable to communicate, there is an instant bond.  She then motions to three other children to join them.  They slowly and apprehensively come from the 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, the children, some for the first time in their brief lives, revel in a sense of security and companionship as they gather around the soldier.  They sit and talk to each other as best they can while the thoughts of the young man gradually turn to the memory of his childhood and parents in a small town somewhere in the heartland of America and of his high school sweetheart and their plans for a family when he returns from the War.

When the time comes for the soldier to depart, the little girl tugs on his sleeve and as a tear rolls down her cheek she hugs him while the other children hold onto him unwilling to let go.  Doing what he must, the soldier reluctantly turns away and without hesitation returns to his duty and the bloody cauldron of war; but he leaves behind children who for the rest of their lives would cherish the memory of that day and of the young man from another country who had shown them such genuine friendship and kindness.

The following day a sniper’s bullet found its mark and the same young man so full of hopes and dreams lay dead beneath the gaunt image of a splintered and shattered tree silhouetted by the purple haze of the setting sun.

Yet in a street of a devastated city thousands of miles from his home the soldier had shared a fleeting moment of peace and tranquility with a new family, those he and his fellow Americans had freed from a life of oppression and given a chance to pursue their dreams as he willingly gave up his.

The country, the United States of America, whence this soldier came, is unique in the history of mankind.  When attacked by foreign powers America 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 freely elected governments.

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 a society to evolve 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 not only willingly take up arms to defend a land they cherish but to expend blood and treasure so they and 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 mankind.

Those that were liberated, initially preoccupied with rebuilding and getting on with their shattered lives, oftentimes 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, particularly the most unpleasant chapters are pushed into the recesses of daily consciousness.   In both the United States and Europe, with each new generation, the knowledge and experience of war and survival is replaced with the demands of day-to-day living and an unfortunate tendency to fall prey to the false but fashionable proclivity of blaming America for all the world’s ills.

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.  Therefore, as a survivor of World War II and someone brought to America as an orphaned child and displaced person, I speak on behalf of the countless millions rescued from despotism who cannot or are unable when I say Thank You and remind all Americans that this nation is still “The Shining City on The Hill” despite repeated and ongoing efforts to obliterate that image.   However, if the citizenry continues to place unbridled faith in politicians and their self-serving promises and succumb to the irrational influence of many societal elites and their egocentrism and not in the advancement of liberty and individual self-determination that so many over the past 240 years fought to defend, then their sacrifice will have been in vain.

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