It is Memorial Day in the USA, a day to honor members of the millitary who died in service to their country. In recent decades, these men and women all chose to enter military service. In times past a high percentage of the soldiers who died were in fact conscripted through a draft. All too often they were from the lower socio-economic strata of society and ethnic minorities. Yet, they served, many proving themselves heroic in battle, each making the ultimate sacrifice for American ideals.
My Dad served on an escort aircraft carrier in the Pacific during WWII, the USS Kadashan Bay. A Kamikaze nearly split the ship in half. Cheryl's Dad was a medic in the norh African campaign. He was injured and classified 98% disabled due to back injuries and the loss of use of both hands. Their's truly was a great generation.
As we honor those who died we also honor those who served alongside them in harm’s way. This is good and proper. In honoring them we honor that for which they dedicated their lives. It is an oft overlooked fact that in our country the oath taken by political and military leaders is to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. That distinction represents an American contribution to modern civilization. We are a nation governed by laws not human sovereigns; Our laws have as their foundation a constitution that expresses a commitment to justice, domestic tranquility, a common defense, the general welfare, and the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. These are the core values for which our soldiers die, the chief of which are justice and liberty.
The emblem of our nation is the American flag to which we pledge our fidelity. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Without criticism of the intent, I would suggest this pledge stops short of its purpose. Our allegiance to the flag and to the republic has lasting value only because of the constitution that defines the republic. Like our officials, we should pledge our allegiance to the Constitution and the values/beliefs upon which it is based. The pursuit of liberty and justice and the defense of the same constitute the core of our civilization and must forever remain the driving force of our self preservation. Anything less dishonors our founders, our nation, our flag and all who fought for their preservation.
In brief, I am not committed to liberty and justice because they are American ideals, but rather I am committed to America because it stands for liberty and justice. Therefore, I honor our veterans not because I supported the wars in which they fought and died. I honor them because of the ideals to which they dedicated their lives. For me, there is no conflict in my opposition to war and honoring our citizen warriors. [As Dr. Bob Crick who survived numerous battles in Viet Nam where he served as a paratrooper chaplain once told me, "Anyone who has ever survived the battlefield and knows the horrors of war opposes any war that is not absolutely necessary.] Finally, I cherish our flag recognizing it as a sign that points to a nation greater than ourselves, a nation founded on the core belief that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.
May 31, 2001