Category Archives: Memorial Day

Making Memorial Day Make a Difference

By James Carafano

As part of my teaching duties at West Point, I took cadets on a study tour of the World War II battlefields in Normandy, France. The first stop is the cemetery on the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach. It is hard not to realize who pays the price for fighting for us. Walking the rows of crosses and stars of David is an unending repetition of private, infantry, private, infantry, private, infantry, sergeant, private, private …

For the young cadets, it was a powerful lesson in leadership, a reminder that their decisions in battle were far weightier than the costs of their own lives. Every decision they made might add to the row, so no decision, no sacrifice should be taken lightly.

For the rest of us, there is a lesson as well: Be thankful for the freedoms won–and who won them.

Few topics in our society are more troubled than how a nation remembers. Few would dispute the practice to place flags on the memorials of the fallen–a tradition rooted in the post-Civil War practice called “Decoration Day.” Beyond that response, Americans are often never of one mind. Each generation has its own answer, and our expression of the value of service is shaped by many sentiments.

When he commanded U.S. troops during the war with Mexico, General Winfield Scott returned with $150,000 paid by Mexico City on the threat of ransacking the capital. He extorted the money because it was the only way he could guarantee that his boys were taken care of. He used the money to pay the troops and buy supplies, and he offered the rest to Congress for an Old Soldier’s Home for homeless veterans.

Conversely, when politicians looked at the 2 million Union veterans after the Civil War, they saw 2 million votes. Congress approved an overgenerous pension plan that quickly became mired in fraud, graft, and patronage until it absorbed 40 percent of the federal budget.

After World War I, the doughboys came home from the horrors of mustard gas, machine guns, and aerial bombardment to find nothing waiting for them. While veterans earned a dollar a day in France, War Department employees received $12 a day at their comfortable desks, federal civil servants received $240 annual bonuses, and assembly line employees saw their wages double. The veterans got a Veterans’ Bureau run by a former presidential campaign worker who went to prison for corruption.

Americans treated World War II veterans like the greatest generation. There were about 16 million men and women in uniform during the Second World War–the war touched every American family. We all cared.

Those returning from Vietnam encountered a mixture of hostility and indifference. Even trying to build a memorial to the fallen in Washington, D.C., proved a protracted and heart-wrenching experience.

Part of the problem is the temptation to wrap the experience of service members in a story: good war, bad war, love the troops, hate the war. We should honor the military for service and sacrifice regardless of our politics. And, we should not measure how we care according to what government does. Our service men and women are ours. They come from our community. What we do is the most important act of all.

There are many organizations out there that honor the fallen and serve the families of those affected by loss. One worth noting is the Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors, or TAPS. Another amazing group is the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which ensures that every child of a special operations warrior who falls on active duty has an opportunity for a college education.

These are the kinds of organizations that make a difference. They honor the fallen by helping their families. They make us a better nation by showing us how to care–and what to do. They bring real meaning to Memorial Day.

This article was first published in The Foundry by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., who is Deputy Director, The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.

Memorial Day Remembrance

In a recent Forbes article, Marianne Bickle reminds us of the true meaning of Memorial Day. She wrote,

Memorial Day started as a holiday to remember the fallen during the Civil War. It was enacted as an honorable day of remembrance; time Civil War was the bloodiest and most deadly war experienced on our soil. Our new and fragile country was at war with itself.

Actually, America was not new. A little under 100 years old America was more like a squabbling child among the nations. Other nations probably saw Americans as a bunch of warring siblings in need of providential correction.

Americans are still divided and warring against itself. On one side are those who for the most part seek to live by the rules and on the other side are those who make up their own rule as the game of life is played out. Yes, those brats seem to be winning. The hand of Providence, however, always gets around to spankling the little darlings. (Oops! I didn’t mean that Providence actually stoops to violent acts like spanking; what I meant to say was meaningful discipline. Surely, God does spare the rod always preferring to lovingly negotiate.)

Anyway, Bickle continued by reminding us that Memorial about honoring the fallen soldiers of all wars including the cultural war, the continuing struggle for human rights, and the daily sacrifice of those who protect society.

Expanding the definition of Memorial Day, think about the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country. George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were considered traitors by some. Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman put their lives on the line to make advancements for human rights. Everyday fire fighters, police and military protect our country’s freedom and the safety of its citizens, never knowing if danger is a moment away.

There are many unsung heros whose fight for our moral freedoms and security go unnoticed. Many of them faithful serve the needy society, teach us the way of right living, counsel peace, facilitate honest prosperity, advocate true justice, stand against corruption, deception and oppression. These often nameless people have or do suffered loss, slander and persecution for their service. For example, leaders who oppose gay marriage, abortion, or the advancement of Islamic law. Some have been killed for their service. Church workers killed by drug lords in the Bronx for helping children and others overcome the problems of poverity, fear, and addictions. The sacrifice and service of these Americans deserve our remembrance as well.

Source: “The Meaning of Memorial Day,” Forbes, May 21, 2012.

Memorial Day, Remembering

By Daniel Downs

On this Memorial Day, the victories, tragedies and sacrifices of war remain fresh memories to many Americans. Each soldier who made it home alive and whole is certainly one victory celebrated by family and friends. Another was the Navy Seals accomplishment in executing justice to Osama bin Laden.

The tragedy of 9-11, of loved ones killed in battle, and even the collateral damage of a seemingly unjust military action in Iraq that led soldiers like Timothy McVey to perpetrate the Oklahoma City bombings are all remembered anew today.

Amidst the feelings of sorrow, the honorable sacrifices of those who willingly gave their lives to serve their country, their loved ones, their God, and the ideals of liberty, justice, and peace cannot be forgotten. For sacrificial service is the path to a better life.

America was founded by those who not only exemplified this kind of sacrificial service but they followed the one who made it possible for them to do so. God was their leader in the battle for liberty, justice, and peace. After the war for Independence has been won, General George Washington gave God the providential honors for the rag-tag militia’s final victory. That was also the reason why America celebrated the Declaration of Independence above the Constitution until after the Civil War era.

It is right that America honors all of those men and women who have devoted their lives to protecting and to serving us. Yet, it would not be right to regard their military service as the sole means of our collective protection. The war against injustice is waged by all of those involved in our system of justice whether police, intelligence services, lawyers, judges, and even private sector advocates. Just as George Washington confirmed our national covenant, the protection of a free nation such as ours ultimately is realized through God’s actions. It may also be said that by our collective honor of and obedience to God we become better equipped to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and our nation.

American founders like Thomas Jefferson envisioned America as a kind of new Israel. Their model is found in the Bible. As depicted in the second book called Exodus, God may have delivered Israel from the enslaving power of the Egyptian government, but it was the liberated men of Israel, empowered by the presence of God, who defeated all of their enemies in Canaan; that is, when they were following the instructions and strategies revealed by God. The founders similarly viewed American liberty. They viewed the victory of the war for independence as God delivering them from the Pharisaic power of the enslaving British imperial military in the colonies. It was won through divinely empowered colonists who willingly sacrificed their lives to liberate and protect their families, communities, their colonial states.

Therefore, in the tradition of remembering those who devote their lives to the divinely ordained sacrificial service of liberty and justice, thanks is offered to God first and secondly to all of those men and women whose service honors that tradition.

And yet, in light of the expansion of America’s empire from 50 federated republican states to world dominance, can it be said of America that it is still the champion of life, liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness? More importantly, can it still be said that the tradition of sacrificial service to defend life and liberty is still honored while millions of unborn Americans are not allowed to live to enjoy the same? Does not this tragedy of our unabated cultural war cast a dark and heavy shadow over the past shining examples of liberty and justice, duty and honor?

Yes, a more fundamental and more important war has yet to be won. If won, life will be better and a greater measure of peace will be realized. The right to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness will no longer be threatened. For without the absolute right to life, all other rights and privileges are empty words in the mouths of tyrants.

Rasmussen Reports Memorial Day Tribute

This Memorial Day, nearly three-out-of-four Americans (74%) have a favorable opinion of the U.S. military, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just 12% hold an unfavorable opinion, and 13% are not sure.

These figures have held steady for the past two years.

Thirty-five percent (35%) of adults say they have a relative or close friend currently serving our country in Iraq or Afghanistan, down nine points from a year ago.

Forty percent (40%) also say they’ve lost a relative or close friend who gave their life while serving in the military. Fifty-two percent (52%) have not lost a relative or close friend in the line of duty, but eight percent (8%) more are not sure.

Just 14% of adults say they have served in the military. Eighty-four percent (84%) have not. Men are nearly five times as likely to have served in the military than women. Americans age 50 and older have a much higher level of military service than those who are younger. Republicans are slightly more likely to have served than Democrats and adults not affiliated with either major party.

Republicans also view the military more favorably than Democrats and unaffiliateds.

Commentary: Even though 84% of American have never served in the military, over 74% are supportive view because friends and loved ones are serving or have served. In spite many who have lost loved one because of military conflict, most Americans still highly regard that service. The high level of support then must be related to the positive views of those who service to our military are reflected by most Americans. As noted above, the variations of approval and esteem are not so much the military and its service but partisan politics and related ideologies.

Rasmussen Reports, May 29, 2010.

Liberals Memorial Weekend Assault On America’s Military

On the eve of the weekend that we honor members of the military who have served and those who have fallen to protect our nation, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to use our military for social engineering to benefit the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) political agenda.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi only gave Member of Congress a total of 10 minutes to debate the overturning of a 1993 law that bans homosexuals from openly serving in the military. Congress spends more debate time naming Post Offices than they gave to this historic policy shift in how our military functions.

This will fundamentally change our military – yet Pelosi thought it was so unimportant that she only gave five minutes for supporters of the ban and five minutes to the opponents of the ban to debate this issue. This is an outrage of immense proportions! Now the Senate will attempt to ram the repeal through when they return in two weeks.

The liberal controlled House of Representatives added an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that overturns the 1993 ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Isn’t our military worth more than 10 minutes of debate? Not to liberals.

The failure to permit an honest debate on this amendment is an affront to every soldier, sailor and marine who has ever fought and died to protect this nation from foreign and domestic threats.

The rush to pass this measure is evidence that liberals know their time is short to impose LGBT social engineering upon our military before the mid-term election. The overturning of the 1993 ban is simply Obama’s way of paying back his LGBT supporters who helped get him elected. It has nothing to do with concern for military readiness, morale or unit cohesion.

The men and women we honor this weekend didn’t give their lives so that a zero tolerance program could be instituted in the Armed Forces to silence criticism of homosexual conduct – or to force our military into sensitivity training sessions to affirm gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender sexual behaviors. Yet, this is apparently what our leftist “Representatives” think.

Federal courts have upheld the constitutionality of the law banning homosexuals in the military. The 1993 law states “there is no constitutional right to serve,” and the military is a “specialized society” that is “fundamentally different from civilian life.” In living conditions offering little or no privacy, homosexuality presents an “unacceptable risk” to good order, discipline, morale and unit cohesion—qualities essential for combat readiness.

Legalizing homosexual conduct in the military will inevitably lead to the destruction of our all-volunteer forces and potentially bring back the draft. Why? Because heterosexual warriors and patriots know instinctively that homosexual sex is abnormal and threatens to create all sorts of problems within the Armed Forces.

In 2008, the Military Times reported the results of a poll regarding lifting the ban on gays in the military. It showed that 10% of our military will not re-enlist or extend their service if the ban is overturned; another 14% said they would consider not re-enlisting or extending their service. In essence, this could result in a loss of up to 323,000 men and women from the service.

This loss of hundreds of thousands of patriotic soldiers will threaten our national security, yet liberals don’t care.

This Memorial Day let’s remember our fallen soldiers, but also remember that our current soldiers face a domestic enemy in our Congress and among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activist groups who seek to exploit the military for their political gain.

We must put an end to the liberal-gay dominance of our Congress this November. The future of our national security depends on it. Remember this: Our soldiers can’t defend themselves in the political realm. We must do it for them. They’re willing to die for you; are you willing to protect them from social engineering by LGBT zealots?

Source: Traditional Values Coalition, email newsletter, May 28, 2010.