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A Posting for Memorial Day

May 27, 2007

There's a lot to remember this Memorial Day. How many people are living in freedom because of the sacrifices made by a soldier? Here we are, communicating freely, openly, voluminously, on the Internet, one of the greatest expressions of freedom in history. Would this have been conceivable if not for the soldiers who defended the ideology of freedom?

How many things in our everyday lives are made possible by soldiers? Could we worship at a place of our choice, without fear of pogroms or inquisitions, or of being second-class citizens, if it were not for soldiers? Would we be able to say what we choose about politicians and political parties without fear if they hadn't fought for those rights? Would we be able to change laws that impact our daily lives, and choose representatives who reflect our views, if soldiers had not risked their lives for democracy, at one time an unproven experiment? Would we be able to choose where and how we were going to work and do business if soldiers had not stood against those who would have enslaved us?

Think also of the restraint our soldiers show. In many parts of the world, the soldiers and police, those with arms and authority, are those most feared by the population. These dishonorable persons extort and intimidate the populace. Our nation is blessed with soldiers and policemen and firemen who serve us, who take on uncomfortable and dangerous tasks for us, and ask for so little in comparison with the sacrifices they make. They do it happily, because of their love.

The love of honorable soldiers gives them strength to deal courteously with those they meet, even if those they meet are discourteous; the strength to be satisfied with what they have and not demand more simply because they have the power to do so. Their love casts out their fear of death, and they go forth to save their fellows and total strangers not even of their nation, because they believe that life is better than death.

What can I say of what this love has achieved on our sad planet that has not already been said? Where the norm for thousands of years has been that to the victors go the spoils, our soldiers are entitled to no plunder, but pay even for the smallest souvenirs. Where the earth for generations has held that conquerors may be as cruel as they desire, our soldiers voluntarily uphold codes and disciplines that enable them to greet small, weak children with smiles and candy. Where the laws of nations say that a country is entitled to occupy territory it gains in war, we restore rule to those not of our land and decline the seductive lure of power.

By the love of soldiers, tyrants have been overthrown, upright governments established, the weak healed, those condemned to death raised again to life. The oppressors who seemed invincible were defeated, and their strongholds were thrown down. Children were restored to their mothers, redeemed from certain death. They paved the way for sanitation, education, and electrification, setting nations on a future of health and prosperity.

Some soldiers were frozen, they were swept overboard or sunk and drowned, they were beheaded, they were blown apart. They went about in prison garb, and slept in muddy trenches in the earth. Some were beaten and would not sign false confessions nor give up their comrades, because they were looking forward to the reward that awaited them. Others faced jeers and starvation, and were forced on wearying marches. They were shot, they were crippled by mines, they contracted horrid diseases, they were soaked by freezing waves, they lost limbs, they were impoverished, and they were mistreated. The world is not worthy of them.

These soldiers, and our domestic heroes, I commend for their love, yet they have not received the full fruit of their labors: a world where men freely choose to deal justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. I believe that something like this world, but far better, awaits them, and us. There shall that be made true, and all things be made perfect.

It is in that belief that I remember our fallen, wounded, and living heroes, and wish them all a happy Memorial Day.

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