This weekend is the celebrated and much anticipated Memorial Day Weekend. It is celebrated and anticipated for many reasons, most of which, I'm sad to say, have nothing to do with the solemn significance of the holiday. Now, lest anyone think I am too puritanical, I have nothing against the pursuit of gaiety (used to be you could use that word without it meaning something perverse) and happiness on the first long weekend of summer. Although I am reminded of what John Keenan, for whom I served as regimental executive officer, said about me at an Officers' Call at the O' Club at Kaneohe, "The XO lies awake at night worrying that someone in this regiment might just be having some fun in Waikiki."
No, I truly want folks to enjoy this weekend. I just wish that every American (including the psuedo-Americans trekking into town across the Arizona desert) would stop at least for ten seconds sometime this weekend and remember why we celebrate Memorial Day. Not to strike a maudlin tone here, but Memorial Day is about remembering the sacrifices of those who died to keep us free to be able to take fun-filled three day weekends.
But, Memorial Day is about more than remembering the sacrifice of American patriots. Memorial Day is about remembering the ACCOMPLISHMENTS of those patriots. Not one American who has died in the sevice of our nation, died in vain; no matter how worthless some self-indulgent liberal peaceniks would try to portray it. Even the vilified efforts of Americans in Vietnam WERE NOT IN VAIN. That we stood and fought communist totalitarianism for 10,000 days made a huge impression on the world. Even in the process of eventually losing the Vietnam campaign against world socialism, we shaped our enemies and impressed our friends. Objective history written 100 years from now will show (despite the current crop of jerk journalists' best America-hating efforts) that by 1975, the world was actually much more ready to accept the bankruptcy of socialism than it had been just fifteen years earlier. That the US was able to expend so much national treasure over an insignificant sliver of rice paddies half-way around the world, while at the same time placing men on the moon and reforming our racially biased society, proved that America, and her democratic ideals, was the pre-eminent force (for good) on the planet.
However, in 1976, we Americans were so down on ourselves (for reasons mostly ginned up by self-serving members of the media establishment) that we picked Jimmy Carter, of all people, to be our president. Had we been more clear-eyed about our place in the world we would have chosen Ronald the Great in 1976 (history lesson: he lost to Ford in the '76 Republican Primary). Just think how much more, and sooner, we would have accomplished in the world if we had Reagan as president 4 years earlier (not to mention before alzheimers began to rob him of is vitality). The thought just occurs to me that the Great Opportunist, Clinton, might have not been able to besmirch our national honor for two terms if the political timing had been shifted so. Ah, but then we would have missed out on the great political theater of impeachment...but I digress.
I watched portions of a special on A&E last night about the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, a Reserve infantry battalion that fought in some of the hardest battles in the on-going campaign against Islamo-fascism in Iraq. They lost 46 Marines and 2 Navy Corpsmen during their tour of duty in Iraq. One of the surviving Marines put it remarkably well when he said, and I paraphrase, "I hate that this battalion is getting all of this attention [parades, TV specials, etc.] for the fact that so many of our fellow Marines died in Iraq. I wish the attention was not for their deaths, but for what they accomplished in Iraq."
If by chance you stop to do so this weekend, remember the fallen, not for their sacrifice alone, but for their freedom-ensuring accomplishments, as well.