Often people forget the sacrifice that others must make to secure the liberties that we take for granted. Too many Americans view Memorial Day to be just another day off from work, rather than a day – at least a part of which we should reserve – to pay tribute to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have fought to defend freedom and liberty throughout our country’s history. Now, when we have troops in harm’s way around the world, patriotic Americans should make that extra effort to honor our military’s devotion to duty, particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country
Pat Tillman, for one, deserves our remembrance. A football player with the potential to earn millions of dollars, he joined the Army after 9/11 and was killed in the line of duty. Mr. Tillman let his actions speak for themselves; he did not seek publicity for himself. He simply wanted to serve his country.
Fortunately, many other young Americans share his sense of duty. Our culture may be in decay, particularly on the coasts and in our nation’s most poor and affluent areas, but there are many young Americans, particularly in the so-called “red” states, who still possess the sense of duty and patriotism that Americans displayed in decades past. They come from places largely insulated from the aftershocks of the 1960s and for that we should be thankful. The lessons of MTV are countered effectively by the examples and lessons provided by their parents, relatives, neighbors and clergy.
The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Montana, for one, has witnessed a surge in enlistments in the armed forces. Reporter Todd Wilkinson wrote young Montanans see military service as a “rite of passage,” not something to avoid. Indeed, one out of every ten Montanans has worn a uniform of this country’s armed services. There it is a family tradition. Wilkinson spoke to a high school headmaster from Bozeman, David Swingle, who said, “In small-town Montana, there is a strong sense of community identity, and part of that identity involves an expectation that young men and women will do something for their country.”
Young Montanans grow up in an environment that equips them to serve their country. They grow up with firearms, learning how to handle them responsibly, even engaging in the Politically Incorrect sport of hunting. Many still live or work on farms or in the outdoors; they’re physically fit. Spending long hours traveling the state, young Montanans are listening to the radio — perhaps even to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity — not glued to cable TV.
Many of the 1960s anti-war protestors from the campuses of our elite universities, coming from homes and schools in which they were indulged and spoiled — actually led to believe they were so special that they were above serving their country — liked to say that those who were soldiers did not think for themselves but let the Army do it for them. Most Montanans, however, see things quite differently now and did so then. To them, joining the military represents a step toward maturity and independence. Montanans who voluntarily served in the Vietnam War understood going in that obtaining and preserving real freedom came at a real price, it’s not something that can just be put on Daddy’s credit card. They knew that dictatorships — whether North Vietnam’s or Hussein’s — truly abused their countrymen. Hanoi Jane and her friends — not American Servicemen — are the real dupes.
We saw how quickly some of our fair-weather patriots on the left turned on our troops the minute reports came that some had mistreated prisoners. As Senator Jim Inhofe has pointed out, the soldiers were dealing with hardened killers and sadists, not pickpockets or thieves. If there was American wrongdoing, we will root it out. What would be the chance that the Hussein regime would bring its own killers to justice?
Not all conservatives believe that we should be so committed in Iraq. But one thing we all agree on is that our troops represent the finest young Americans. Their willingness to serve their country sets an example for future generations. This Memorial Day, we should be very thankful for the soldiers and sailors who served, most especially those who have died serving their country. We should also be glad that there are still places such as Montana where duty, honor, and country still count.