We all have relatives who died in the war. It doesn’t matter what your sex, race, or political affiliation is, somewhere in your family tree there was a human being killed in a war. It may have been 200 years ago, or just recently in Iraq or Afghanistan, but we’ve all been touched by the tragedy of young people dying for the cause of the American Dream.
Whether it was the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, or any of the half dozen wars since, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died to protect an idea. They may not have all agreed on what that idea meant, but they walked into life-threatening circumstances because they believed the future of Americanism was at stake.
They didn’t do it for money, for publicity or just to avoid shame. It takes more than vanity to lay down your life for someone else’s benefit. It takes a very selfless sense of duty, a vision of the future that doesn’t necessarily include yourself. That, I would submit, is the very definition of selflessness.
I am just as certain that the families of all of the service members killed on the other team feel just as sad. They had their beliefs, their motivations to go fight for the Fatherland, or for their King. But you don’t see cemeteries full of their soldiers on foreign land. They may have been willing to die for their country but they were never willing to die for other countries, as Americans have all over the world.
Anyone who challenges Americans’ selflessness hasn’t visited any of the 25 cemeteries in 16 countries where American freedom fighters are buried.
I believe most people, even serious pacifists, would step in front of a bullet to save the life of their mother. Why is the survival of the one who gave us life so sacred? Could it be simple gratitude? Just how powerful is the gratitude emotion? Do American soldiers hold the same level of respect and love for their country as they do for their moms?
We can’t ask those questions of soldiers who died in war. We can only surmise from their actions what they were thinking when they flew that doomed sortie, charged that machine-gun bunker or crawled into that jungle tunnel, knowing there was a high probability that they would not live to see the result of their bravery.
They had to know the odds were that they would never see the birth of their next child, their kids’ graduation, or wedding. They must have been thinking that without their efforts, maybe those family hallmarks would never be possible, let alone realized. Maybe they weren’t thinking at all. Instead they were simply reacting to a threat, instinctively jumping in front of that proverbial bullet, trying to save their Mother of Freedom from a lethal wound.
The American Dream, that our citizens have a God-given right to pursue liberty, to be free from any form of intimidation and servitude, in pursuit of happiness, is always going to be on the edge of extinction. So on the battlefield, it must have been a crucial choice for our soldiers: Sacrifice now or suffer subjugation later. Every generation of Americans has a duty to stop threats to our unique American model, no matter what form they may take.
America is, after all, the Mother of Freedom for all of mankind. Memorial Day is the Mother’s Day of Americanism. She wouldn’t have made it this far if not for those veterans that never came home.