Memorial Day is a time to remember the selfless sacrifices of those who gave their all for the cause of American freedom. Throughout our history, on a hundred battlefields, in deserts and jungles, on beaches and in mountain passes, more than a million brave Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives so we could enjoy the liberties we have today. We must not forget them.
Today, across our nation, in cemeteries, on old battlefields and in town squares, citizens will gather to honor the passing of our American military heroes. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “…they gave the last full measure of devotion.” The way to truly honor them is to remember the causes they labored to secure: independence from oppressive government; the freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights; a union of free states, united for the common good; and security and sovereignty for the United States. These are causes worth fighting for, and our freedom is secure today because we, as a people, continue to fight—and die if necessary—for these causes.
On the front page of today’s Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the paper recognized 11 military men from Georgia who lost their lives over the past year. Seven were killed in Afghanistan, two in Iraq, one in Africa and another in the United Arab Emirates. Our military men and women continue to perform difficult tasks all around the world.
While political leaders will debate the appropriate or inappropriate uses of military force and whether we should commit troops to protect our interests and our freedoms, our military personnel, which in our nation are subject to civilian control, are charged with carrying out the wishes of our civilian leaders. They don’t debate: They follow orders.
Of course, the political leaders are supposed to listen to those they represent, and that is where we, the people, play a role. For more than two centuries, the system has worked fairly well; but we, the people, must be ever vigilant to guard against encroachments against the authority of our Constitution, especially when it comes to committing troops to conflicts around the globe.
General Douglas MacArthur, in his final address at West Point, “Duty, Honor, County,” said of the American man-at-arms, “…he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me or any other man. … He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism.” MacArthur observed, “The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training—sacrifice.”
Self-sacrifice is one the greatest acts of mankind. Jesus Christ, who understood this ethic, said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
For our nation to endure, we will always need men and women who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to guarantee our way of life. On Thursday evening, at Kennesaw State University, the Wheeler High School graduation was marked by the appointment of graduating senior John Malcolm to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Young men and women, like John Malcolm, continue to answer the call to serve our nation, to do what is needed to secure our liberty for generations to come.