The other day I sat in a restaurant with my wife across from a table of 25 U.S. troops. When they finished their meal and filed out, I stood up, extended my hand and said “Thank You” to each and every one. As each soldier looked me in the eye and shook my hand, the pride in their eyes was palpable.
Who knows why young men and women volunteer to serve in the military? No matter the pragmatic benefits promised by recruiters, I have a hunch most sign up because they truly believe in the traditional ideals of this country and the mission of the U.S. armed forces to defend it. Yes, we all know the ideals of this great nation have been besmirched time and time again. We also know that the mission of the U.S. military has been often corrupted and betrayed by self-serving and arrogant politicians and the timid majority that elects them. The reality of this betrayal is obvious: our most idealistic young men and women are thrown to the wolves. (For a graphic portrayal of the obvious, see: Black Hawk Down.)
On Memorial Day it is worthwhile to consider how a young man becomes that brave individual who chooses to stand at the wall and defend the rest of us against the Huns at the gate. He does it by making a simple commitment to an ideal and to the mission. He sacrifices his individuality to the collective of the military academy or the boot camp. He makes that simple decision to serve an ideal not knowing what betrayals politicians may have in store for him down the line.
Today I salute the traditional ideals of this great nation: property, freedom and peace. I thank the fine, young men and women who commit themselves to preserving those ideals. I’ll shake their hand at every opportunity. But, at the same time, I condemn the bastards in Washington who prey on youthful idealism to feed their own, greedy lust for power.