Memorial Day 2011

America is exceptional for many reasons.  Our military is very much at the top of that list.  Their courage is undeniable; we have had years of recent examples proving that courage, in addition to our less recent history.  Men and women suffering the most horrific injuries and yet demonstrating an attitude that leaves the rest of us in shame over petty complaints.

The men and women of our military reflect an idea we take for granted and rarely discuss.  Despite changes in the political landscape 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 that reflects their view of America. It is an instinctual understanding of the intents of the founding.  That belief separates us from the long parade of: dictatorships, military juntas, coup d’états and banana republics strewn throughout history based on the presence of a political military.  We have only to look to present day Egypt, Syria, Libya or Pakistan to judge the impact 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 to the extent they have it in their power to do so.  They should be honored not just in the context of the 2.6 million dead and wounded in our history but for that commitment to the Constitution and for the exceptional standards they assign to themselves.  As much as free speech or a free press, a military committed to constitutional principals and freedoms is what truly guarantees America.  Our political discourse never considers how the military will react to political issues and yet we fail to understand how unique that is. We maintain no fear that our military will impact the political balance of power.  There can be little doubt that over the broad scope of history, this is a truly exceptional circumstance.

Polling identifies the American military as the institution Americans hold in highest regard; second place is not even close.  The American military functions in an orbit that transcends party and politics.  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.  Those ‘other’ institutions would be vastly improved were they half as selfless; or courageous.       

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.  

To those who do and did serve, thank you, thank you for …… EVERYTHING!