In our history, over 1 million men (and some women) have died under arms serving under the flag of the United States. Most died a violent death, some by violent disease. Nearly all were young, their lives full of potential, cut short by sacrifice in the cause of freedom. Many were drafted, many freely volunteered to serve. Some were not even American citizens. In terms of measuring the sacrifice, add to these who died the millions who were injured severely, in many cases crippled for life. And add to those, still more who came away relatively unscathed physically , yet bore a lifetime of emotional scars that robbed them of their own freedom.
I wish to belabour just a bit the many details, the sacrifices, the agony, the rage, the shock, the hopelessness for many who saw their deaths coming. Today is a day in which it is right and proper to soak ourselves in some of the unsavory detail. The endless fields of crosses, the military funerals sometimes seem too precise, too pristine for me – and please understand, those are works of love and wonder, and they effectively and permanently honor these great men who gave their lives. For me personally, I wish to remember the soldier who took bullets burning through his gut, and perished coughing blood out of his mouth and nose; the one blown into pieces by artillery that rained from the sky while he and his compatriots were pinned down on a nameless hillside; the man onboard a destroyer that was blasted out of the water by bombers, and died drowning or covered with oil and on fire; one of the many, many thousands who died of dysentery, denied even the dignity of being killed by rifle fire, but literally crapping his life away, dying after hours and days of unspeakable agony.
I wish to convey that most of who gave their lives actually died violently. Their sacrifice was massive, and it happened not to over 1 million people, but to a single individual person – one with dreams, talents, future plans, loved ones and family – a million times over. For me, it’s more personal to say that I owe my freedom to one of the 50 sailors who died when the destroyer, the USS Emmons, was sunk by kamikazi planes in 1945. I know not a single name, but I know there was a young man who worked his tail off daily on a nasty, stinky ship that he was nevertheless proud of; who jumped at the barked-out orders of another young man scarcely older yet laden with responsibility of command; who had pictures of mom and dad, brothers, sisters, and future wife who wrote him letters he never got. I know he died on fire. I know that I owe him my life.
I do owe that young man my life. I owe Nathan Hale my life. I owe my life to the other million who died, and to the other 4 to 8 million who were injured on the inside or outside. They lost their lives for my freedom and your freedom. I am not worthy of the blood spilled, nor are you. But they did not die, per se, for me. They died for my freedom, and for yours.
So how do we make their sacrifices count? By fighting just as fervently to protect the freedoms that were bought with their blood. There is work, urgent work in fact, to be done here at home. While our heroic military people are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan against people who would deny us our freedoms, at home in state houses and in Washington, evil men and women are daily and purposefully stealing our freedom. Other people with the power to stop them, not evil but somewhere between stupid and cowardly, either stand aside or lend their assistance to those who steal our freedom.
That must be stopped. They must be destroyed, and not rehabilitated. We, the grassroots Americans, must get actively involved in the political war. We must become precinct captains in our party, to deny those seats to people who do not hold freedom dear, and to vote into power those who do hold our freedom dear. We must find and support candidates who can replace these lesser people who hold elective office. We must decide when and where is the time for civil disobedience, and then jump in with spurs on. We must bombard currently elected officials with calls and letters, and town hall presentations, with our express and unbending will to have all Americans free. We must treat as outcasts judges, politicians, and bureaucrats who we know have personally acted against our freedom. In some cases we must impeach them. We must elect men and women who will not be nice to the other side, but will pursue them with investigations, and punish and imprison evildoers who have used position and power to deny Americans our freedom.
There is no time like today to begin. I do terrible disservice and dishonor to that young man on the USS Emmons who died on fire when a kamakazi plane exploded on deck, if I fail to act boldly and decisively to protect the freedoms that were secured by his death. Starting today.
So how about you?