In Memoriam: American Patriots
“With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves.” –Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking up Arms, July 6, 1775
Monday is Memorial Day, that exceptional day of each year all Patriots reserve to formally honor the service and sacrifice of generations of uniformed Patriots now departed – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who honored their sacred oaths “to support and defend” our Constitution and the liberty it enshrines.
In this era, however, our “progressive” academic institutions choose not to teach genuine history or civics. Consequently, many Americans have no sense of reverence or obligation for the liberty they enjoy. Indeed, many will “celebrate” Memorial Day as any other holiday, with barbecues, beer, and commercial sales at local malls. Simply put, they have sold out Memorial Day.
However, those of us who do understand the cost of liberty will advance this custom in honor of fallen Patriots, with both formal rites and simple prayers. For it is through the legacy of these Patriots that we are able to see most clearly our nation’s noble history of eternal vigilance in support of liberty.
In 1776, an extraordinary group of men signed a document affirming our God-given right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Their commitment to the principles outlined therein are summed up in its final sentence: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
Founding Patriot John Adams wrote: “I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.”
And the cost has been incalculable.
Generations of Patriots have since pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in defense of the Essential Liberty codified by our Founders in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
Our nation has, time and again, spent its treasure and spilt its sons’ blood, not only for liberty at home, but also abroad.
However, Benjamin Franklin noted in 1777 that it should be so: “[O]ur cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.”
Since the opening salvos of the American Revolution, nearly 1.2 million American Patriots have died in defense of liberty. Additionally, 1.4 million have been wounded in combat, and tens of millions more have served honorably, surviving without physical wounds. These numbers, of course, offer no reckoning of the inestimable value of their service or the sacrifices borne by their families, but we do know that the value of the liberty they have extended to their posterity – to us – is priceless.
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died,” said Gen. George S. Patton. “Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
While I greatly appreciate Gen. Patton’s sentiment, I must respectfully disagree with his premise. I both mourn their absence and thank God they lived.
Etched into the base of the Iwo Jima Memorial in our nation’s capital are the words of Adm. Chester Nimitz, his timeless tribute to the Marines who fought so valiantly there during World War II: “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Such valor has attended every conflict involving American Patriots.
Not to be confused with men of such virtue, last week, Barack Hussein Obama addressed the graduating class at the United States Military Academy. His minions brokered Obama’s appearance before the latest Corps (pronounced “core”, not “corpse”) of Cadets in the Long Gray Line, in an effort to burnish his thin veneer as “Commander in Chief” of our Armed Forces.
Obama used the occasion to dress up his strategy of appeasement.
In other years, men of somewhat greater stature have addressed the USMA, perhaps the most memorable being General Douglas MacArthur, who delivered his address on “Duty, Honor and Country,” without the assistance of teleprompters, or even notes.
His words immortalize the spirit of all American Patriots who have served our nation in uniform:
Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man at arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefields many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world’s noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless.
His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me, or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast.
But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements.
In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people.
From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage. As I listened to those songs of the glee club, in memory’s eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads; to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.
I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light.
And twenty years after, on the other side of the globe, against the filth of dirty foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts, those boiling suns of the relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms, the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails, the bitterness of long separation of those they loved and cherished, the deadly pestilence of tropic disease, the horror of stricken areas of war.
Honor. Duty. Country.
Thomas Jefferson offered this advice to all generations of Patriots: “Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them.”
We owe a great debt of gratitude to all those generations who have passed the torch of liberty to succeeding generations.
In Memoriam, we recall these words from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
“Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.”
“[L]et us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.” –Ronald Reagan at Pointe du Hoc, 1984
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