Many years ago there was a war. Officially it was called World War II. Unofficially it was called the Great War. More recently it has been describd as the "Good War," because it was against Fascism and a ruthless enemy. It was not a "good war;" there is no such thing. It was a horrible war. Millions died in that war, mostly young men in their prime with their whole lives ahead of them. They did not plan to die, but that is the way of war.
They fought with great courage and bravery on both sides, for the German and Japanese armies were also made up largely of young men. On our side it was fought by what has been called the "Greatest Generation." Maybe so, for our armed forces performed with uncommon and unexpected ferocity and courage. The reason was that our young men were fighting for their land, the greatest country on Earth and its precious liberty. They fought for God and country, which unfortunately sounds trite in this modern blase and sophisticated age, but it definitely was not trite in those days, which I remember clearly. Did they think deeply about that as they charged into battle? Probably not, but somehow they knew that they were fighting for a great cause, for an ideal, a way of life that was so precious it was worth risking life itself. They were fighting for the protection and survival of their beloved America.
Perhaps the greatest display of bravery in the annals of military history was the invasion of "Fortress Europe" in 1944. Arrayed against the Allied invasion force on the shores of France was a formidable, battle-hardened and well-equipped foe who knew that this was the deciding point of the war. At Normandy, many thousands of young American men advanced into a wall of machine gun bullets and artillery, largely without cover and slowed by waist-deep water. They died by the thousands but kept coming. American Rangers scaled vertical cliffs at Pointe du Hoc in the face of point-blank fire from above, suffering 65% casualties but gaining the objective. At the end of the day, they had prevailed. Never in the history of warfare has there been a greater display of courage, in a battle that would determine the victor in a World War and the future of civilization on this planet. But make no mistake, the price was terrible.
In all the wars in which America has been involved, including the one we lost, our troops never broke and ran regardless of the odds. I don't believe any fighting force in history can make that claim. They paid a price--the nation paid a price--for freedom and liberty, home and family, God and honor. I believe Providence took a hand that day in June 68 years ago, for by all accounts the Allies should have been thrown back into the sea, battered and broken, and the war lost. But it didn't happen and we owe that to those boys who without exception covered themselves with glory and honor, especially the fallen. God was with them at Normandy and in other conflicts, not because they were perfect and holy, but because their cause was just and right.
There may be arguments that, while WW II was "the Good War," some of our subsequent wars and "police actions" were not so holy. Perhaps, but that is politics and our men and women were and are above politics. They fought against Communism in Korea and Vietnam, an adversary that threatened to "bury us." In Southwest Asia, they fought and are fighting an adversary sworn to destroy the "Great Satan" and kill all of us infidels. Have dishonorable events occurred in the heat of conflict? Yes, but they involved a miniscule minority. No one is perfect; we are all human.
So, on this day--yes, May 30th, is the "real" Memorial Day--we commemorate not the unofficial start of Summer (it really begins at 6 P.M. on June 20th) or even our veterans who certainly deserve our gratitude for their service and sacrifice, but rather we honor our dead who gave the greatest gift, their lives, so that we could enjoy the coming of Summer and all our good times in comfort and freedom in this the greatest nation on Earth, our--and their--America.
Therefore, please pause just a moment on this most meaningful of national holidays and reflect on the magnitude of that sacrifice and what it means to you and yours. And to those who gave all, in the final words of the first verse of "Taps":
"All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.