Skip to comments.Rest In Peace, Brave Heroes
Posted on 05/28/2012 11:01:05 AM PDT by jfd1776
On Veterans Day, which had its birth in the Armistice Day that celebrated the end of World War I, we thank our servicemen, both current and retired, for their service. We phone our parents, siblings, children our neighbors or friends we see someone in uniform at the store, the mall, the airport or at church, and we say, Thank you for your service. Of course, we can do that every day, but Veterans Day is a special day when we try harder to remember to.
Memorial Day, now celebrated on the last Monday in May, is all of the above, and more. Born as Decoration Day after the Civil War, Memorial Day evolved to be the day to specifically celebrate our fallen heroes, those who made that ultimate sacrifice in service to their country during wartime.
On this day, we honor and thank the service of our militiamen, who stood tall at Lexington and Concord, facing experienced British troops with all the steadfast resolve of professionals. 49 patriots gave their lives that day, and many more were wounded, in the first true battle of the Revolutionary War.
Hundreds of thousands more Americans have lost their lives in the whirlwind of bullets and mortars of battle over the centuries since. From the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812, from the Mexican War to the Civil War all the way through the bloodiest century, the twentieth, when our soldiers helped save our friends and allies from expansionist statist countries like Hitlers Germany, Hirohitos Japan, and Saddam Husseins Iraq, as well as the proxy wars of the Cold War, in which we defeated Soviet Russia and freed Eastern Europe. It took time, but we got it done.
But as we study our history, and give serious consideration to the many we must thank for their service today, we should also remember the other horrors of war. Throughout history, the bullet, cannonball, sword and arrow have never been the only causes of fatality in war. Especially in our nations early wars, before the blessing of modern medicine, disease ranked high on the list. In our Revolutionary War alone, we lost tens of thousands to yellow fever, flus, dysentery, and so many other diseases contained or outright beaten today. One of General Washingtons most critical campaigns was his insistence that his troops be inoculated against smallpox, which killed thousands of the enemy, as surely as any ordnance or musketball. But we still lost many thousands to the illnesses that spread like wildfire in fetid swamps and cramped camps.
And there has always been starvation as well, as sure a slow killer as a bomb may be a quick one. We lost thousands during the long winter at Valley Forge, as a bankrupt nation found it impossible to properly feed and clothe her troops, and malnutrition made them too weak to fight off infections that they could easily have beaten on their own, back on the farm.
Weve lost thousands of brave souls to the foul conditions of prisoner of war camps from the rotting and overstuffed British ships of the 18th century, to the deadly march to Bataan, and the torture chamber known as the Hanoi Hilton in the 20th. When people die in a foreign POW camp, it usually means they refused to gain special treatment by giving up secrets, even at the cost of their own lives. This too is truly a heros death.
Imagine the slow suffering of frostbite and its cousin gangrene, as our troops honored their commitments to remain with the army, despite a lack of shoes or boots, trudging long miles through snow red with blood, as undersupplied and underfed American soldiers have marched from battle to battle, whether along the Hudson, or through waterlogged foxholes, or across the Rhine, or through rice paddies in Southeast Asia.
There have been testing and training accidents, too, as soldiers learning the M1 and then the M16, or pilots learning to maneuver bombers and fighters, troop transports and refueling jets, have periodically been lost in those tragic training exercises. They may not have died in battle, but those who pushed the limits of our equipment have helped make that equipment better for those who later used them successfully to win, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice in so doing. These are heroes too.
Yes, on this day, we celebrate them all because those who made it to battle did so with the support of their compatriots. Those who survived our wars to stand tall and proud at the end, only claimed those victories with the joint effort of their colleagues, who marched and trained alongside them, shared their suffering and their victories, both on the battlefields and in between.
So dont ever think that Memorial Day isnt for the living, as well. In a very special way, Memorial Day is even more for the living than it is for the dead:
By celebrating this day, whether at a lively parade with banners of red, white, and blue, or at a somber cemetery service with a lone American Legion trumpeter playing taps or even as a quiet family visit to the plot of a lost grandpa, uncle or cousin by visibly honoring the fallen on this day, we reassure our living servicemen that, not only do we thank them for their service today, when we see them at the train station or the mall, we are committed to continue to keep on thanking them forever, long after theyve gone to their reward, as long as this grateful nation shall stand.
Copyright 2012 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade compliance lecturer. A former County Chairman of the Milwaukee Republican Party, he did not serve in the military himself, and is eternally grateful to those who have.
As a member of a Selective Service appeals board (yes, the draft is dormant, but the Selective Service framework remains in place), he reminds the public that all boys are required to register for the draft upon reaching the age of eighteen. We hope we never need to reinstate the draft the volunteer military has been wonderfully successful but readiness is key to being prepared for all eventualities.
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