Memorial Day should be, invariably, a time of serious reflection. It should be a time, even just for a little while, to consider the sacrifices that stand at the foundation of the holiday and the nation.
Since the United States came into being, 1.1 million have given the last full measure of devotion in service to their country; 60% of those in combat; 1.5 million have been wounded. 2.6 million points of sacrifice in the service of country.
Many served unwillingly, many with doubts, many for reasons of their own beyond service. But, serve they did to the benefit of all. Many were not called to that service with that absence resulting in a permanent question phrased against the courage we see in those that did. There is also a tinge of regret in hindsight. Regret fueled by the admiration held for those we know who do and did serve with courage, skill and honor; men and women who faced the demons of fear and uncertainty and overcame them. Battles waged, large and small with commitment and valor; in their heart and soul those who fight see an America worth fighting for.
The men and women of our military reflect an idea we take for granted and rarely discuss. They are committed to the idea that a military should be controlled by civilian leaders; it is not, to them, simply a constitutional dictate to observe it is a deeply held value reflective of their view of America. That belief, held by our military, is most of what separates us from the long parade of dictatorships, military juntas, coup d’état, and banana republics that have lay strewn throughout history’s landscape on the basis of a political military.
Our military is so jealously committed to the proposition of civilian control that despite frequent frustrations, our system and our liberties are guaranteed. I honor them for that commitment and salute the high standards they assign to themselves. As much as a free press or free speech a military committed to constitutional principals and freedoms is what truly guarantees America. Our political discourse never revolves around how the military will react to political issues. We maintain no fear that our military will impact the political balance of power; over the broad scope of history an exceptional circumstance.
Polling identifies the American military as the institution Americans hold in the highest regard; second place is not even close. The American military functions in an orbit that transcends party, politics or the petty battles of the moment. The American public in vast majority assumes, with good reason and an abundance of evidence, that the military posses and applies values and selfless commitments absent in most of our institutions.
On this day, reflection is unavoidable it should be unavoidable: the lives, the sacrifice, the trauma, the families and the unselfish contributions that millions have made in support of the gifts of freedom.
And to those who do and did serve, thank you, thank you for …… everything!