In Memoriam 2010

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A Cub Scout salutes the fallen at the Punchbowl National Cemetery in Hawaii.

It is a rainy, dreary Memorial Day here in South Carolina so since most barbecues and picnics will be called off around here today, I’ve spent the morning thinking about what Memorial Day was enacted for — remembering our fallen soldiers. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a hawk, but if our boys and girls go into battle, my support goes with them. A true soldier, sailor, or marine doesn’t get to pick his or her war. At enlistment, they all took an oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and that’s the end of it. They may have serious ideological differences with their commanders over what they are fighting for, but the true soldier follows all lawful orders and, if needs be, dies for what his country if not his heart has told him is right. That bothers a lot of people these days because this is America and we thrive on the choices of the individual. We ask, “why should a soldier fight and die for a cause he does not passionately agree with?”

I think G.W. Chesterton hit nearest the mark answering this question when he said, “the true soldier fights, not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” Our soldiers defend our country. They always have. Some of the greatest heroes were also some of the most reluctant, like Sgt. Alvin York who despised the very idea of killing another human being, but who, when his country called, answered, went to the Argonne Forest, and became a hero.

Then there is the story of the Four Chaplains of the USS Dorchester. One was a Jewish Rabbi, two were Protestant ministers, and one was a Catholic priest, but when the Dorchester was torpedoed in frigid North Atlantic waters, the four men of differing faiths worked together to calm the panicked men and restore order to the passing out of life jackets. Then, when no more life vests remained, they each gave a frightened sailor their own. When Rabbi Goode pressed his vest into the hands of a frightend sailor, he didn’t stop to ask the man if he were a good Jew. Father Washington didn’t seek out an altar boy to give his vest to. They did what had to be done and when nothing more could be done, they joined hands — four faiths — on the fantail of the sinking ship and prayed.

So remember today and every day if you can’t support the war, please support the men and women fighting it. Bullets kill doves as easily as hawks. To remember the day, I’ve included a beautiful and solemn video of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery. Hopefully it will remind us of the multitudes of brave men and women who have paid the final price to keep America’s light shining in the world.

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