Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day From Sound Of Cannons

Did All Those Sacrifices Mean Anything?
Way back when I was a student, my classmates and I stood together at the start of each school day and repeated the Lord's Prayer, then pledged allegiance to the American flag. In those days, before judges ended school prayer and limited flag pledges, millions of young Americans started the school day in the same way.
Think about the American flag — 13 stripes and 50 stars, standing as it does as the nation's essential patriotic symbol.
What Patriotism Really Means
The old saw is that "patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels." It's true that far too many have used appeals to patriotism, (or nationalism), to cover their nefarious schemes for power.
But on this American Memorial Day we should consider that true patriotism denotes positive, supportive attitudes toward one's country. Patriotism includes pride in one's country and its achievements, in its culture and also identification with other people in the nation. Patriotism implies that the country, however defined, offers moral standards and values — what it means to be "an American." Patriotism also implies that individuals should place their nation's interests above their personal or group interests. Indeed, in time of war, the ultimate sacrifice may extend to offering your own life on behalf of your country.
Remembering the Sacrifice Made in Blood
Memorial Day is a day when Americans should pause and focus on the ultimate price so many have paid over the centuries to win and preserve our freedom.
Each generation has taken up and continued the struggle to protect liberty. My father fought in France in 1918 and my older brother flew missions in a B-24 Liberator over Italy in 1944. Both have passed on now. Perhaps your family history is similar.Young folks used to have a saying: "To die for." It meant that some object or person is so enticing that you're willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to obtain it.
But ask yourself this, how many Americans today would be willing to die for the freedoms and liberties we supposedly enjoy — as more than a million before us have done? And do we still enjoy the liberties for which they fought and died? Or have freedoms been slowly taken from us, devaluing the sacrifice of their deaths? Did they die in vain? In his eloquent Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln suggested that what we do as a people would determine the answer to that question.
Painting Politics by Numbers
Americans are overwhelmed by numbers. We're surrounded by presidential preference polls, a bloated national debt, huge budget and trade deficits, highway fatalities, the number of forecasted hurricanes, crime statistics. But too many people seem more concerned about the latest American Idol winner than about how our freedoms are being systematically stolen away.
The cruelest numbers of all are those that seem so senseless.
Over 4,000 members of the American military have died in the Iraq war, as well as thousands more Iraqis and non-military American contractors. Whatever the merits of this war, each American and Iraqi casualty, many of them very young, were unique individuals. Each with his or her own life, loves and potential that now will go unrealized. Was this really necessary? It's worth considering in comparison that in all the wars America has fought, including our own Civil War; 1,290,200 have died. During Gen. Robert E. Lee's first Confederate invasion of the North, at Antietam in my home state of Maryland, on Sept. 17, 1862 alone, more than 23,000 men were killed, wounded or missing.
What's Worth Dying For?
At Sound Of Cannons, we often speak of freedom and liberty, usually in terms of very real threats to both of these precious commodities.
To observe that so many have died in the American cause over so many centuries only accentuates the meaning and importance of the cause for which they gave their "last full measure of devotion" as Lincoln said. They died before their time, with promises unrealized, in the service of their country. Their very real sacrifice for our liberties makes it all the more important that we guard against diminution of those liberties in our own time — whether the threat is from abroad, or from within our own government.
Today let's remember the real meaning of Memorial Day and never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our liberties.

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