About 17 years ago I was asked by someone if I could get my father to come to D.C. and speak about his experiences as a dorsal turret gunner aboard a B24 Liberator heavy bomber flying out of Libya during World War II. Dad was a participant in the horrifying Ploesti raid, and I figured it might make an interesting talk especially since he never spent a lot of time telling us kids "war stories".
But when I popped the question, Dad scoffed and said: "If those people want to know about war, they can ride the subway to Arlington Cemetery".
Indeed. Dad had seen a bomber containing two of his best buds get hit and go down with no parachutes evident. On every mission he flew, there were men killed in action, a few times right on board the bomber he was protecting.
Death in battle is seldom quick and clean. Men fall for some minutes in an airplane spinning so violently that they are pinned and cannot bail out. Soldiers take a bullet to the gut and bled out screaming for a medic. Sailors die in hideous fires, and they suffer no less than a victim of burning at the stake. And yet since 1775 men who are just barely out of their boyhood have stepped up to face these horrors to secure and defend our Republic and our freedom.
The statement "freedom is not free" is not just some old saying. The very attainment of freedom is more often than not achieved by use of arms, and once attained must be vigilantly watched over and defended, notably with arms. As it has been said, the Tree of Liberty needs to be refreshed from time to time with the blood of Patriots and tyrants.
The fallen warriors we honor today gave their lives so that our liberty and our Republic may prosper. It is astounding that there are those who complain about having to stand in line for an hour to cast a ballot. They might think during that hour about the men - and women - who gave their very lives so that they could cast that ballot to begin with.
How many mothers, fathers, wives, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters have seen a sedan pull up and watched two officers in full dress uniform start up the walkway; and - atremble and with eyes full of tears - hoped against hope that the visit was for some reason other than to notify them of the death of their beloved?
Go ahead and have your cookout. But remember that your freedom to have your fun came at the price of hundreds of thousands of lives. Remember to bring your guests to atttention and ask for a minute of silence to remember those who made your cookout possible.
It's a pity, but there are actually people in this country who think that what I have suggested is too much trouble and/or "silly". If you run into one of these types, give them a copy of this post.
God rest the souls of our Honored Dead, and comfort and bless those they left behind.