Memorial Day, like Independence Day and Veterans Day, are holidays which evoke mixed emotions in me. On the one hand, it is proper and fitting that we honor the sacrifices of those brave men and women who fought, and sometimes died, in the defense of American freedom, and often for freedom of those not of our nation. We are able to more greatly appreciate their sacrifices when we contemplate the suffering that they endured for their family, their nation and their posterity.
No student of history can fail to understand that our republic would never have come into existence, and never have endured for nearly two and a half centuries, without the unsung heroes of our armed forces; the men who marched with General George Washington towards Trenton on Christmas Eve of 1776, many malnourished and with feet bloodied and torn for lack of shoes, wrapped in burlap sacks. Without these men and their triumph over the Hessian mercenaries, the Revolutionary War would have ended shortly thereafter, with soldiers demoralized after a long series of battles lost, their commanders and the Founding Fathers hunted down and executed for treason.
Nor were they the only soldiers to make the ultimate sacrifice. During the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key wrote in our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, of the 25-hour bombardment by British warships on Fort McHenry, a fort filled with women and children and some soldiers. The British promised that they would end the bombardment and spare the lives of the women and children if the soldiers would only lower the Stars and Stripes and surrender, thereby ending the resistance of the American colonists. The British warships unleashed a fury of cannonballs on the fort, with the shells striking with such constancy that it was completely obscured by the solid wall of smoke and fire. Every time the British would pause to let the smoke clear to see if the flag had fallen, they were astonished to see that it was still flying.
Enraged by the American refusal to surrender, and confounded by the fact that the flag still flew (although at an odd angle) despite having received numerous direct hits after nearly a full day of bombardment, the British admiral commanded that every cannon on every ship of the massive British armada anchored off the coast adjacent to the fort should aim at the rampart on which the American flag stood, and that the very jaws of hell should open up its gaping maw and pour out a steady river of iron and gunpowder upon that shore until the flag had fallen once and for all.
After several more hours the shelling stopped, and as the black mist cleared and the fort was revealed to view, Francis Scott Key, aboard the flagship of the British armada (having gone on board to negotiate a prisoner exchange), saw the American flag, shredded and torn, yet still flying at the top of a pole, leaning at an impossible angle but still standing. When Key left the ship and went to the shore, he saw for the first time the reason that flag flew so low. As the cannon fire had continued throughout the night, the flag and flagpole were repeatedly hit. When the flagpole came down, those brave soldiers had gone and raised the banner again and again, refusing to surrender to British tyranny. Each time the flag was hit and the soldier raising it slain, another would take his place. That beautiful banner of liberty was literally held up, at that strange angle, by a mound of the bodies of the fallen soldiers. They had given their last great measure of devotion to their flag and their country, their spilled blood a testament of their sacrifice for the hallowed ground that drank it in.
This same love and devotion would be manifested again and again throughout the coming decades and centuries. Our soldiers would die by the thousands in the muddy fields and forests of Europe in World Wars I and II. They would die on tiny pieces of rock barely qualifying as islands in the Pacific Ocean in order to defeat the Imperial Japanese. They would die in the jungles and marshes of Korea and Vietnam, and more recently in the barren mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq. All of these soldiers answered the call to defend freedom at home and around the world, to defeat tyrannical powers abroad so that our wives and children, brothers and sisters, family and friends, would be safe at home. Such bravery and sacrifice is deserving of our honor and a place in our memories as individuals and as a nation. Our children deserve to know of the lives lost and blood spilt that they might enjoy peace.
I noted earlier that these holidays evoke mixed emotions in me. They evoke gratitude and humility for those that have defended this great land. However, these holidays also evoke a sense of frustration at what I perceive as a collective national ingratitude for the fallen. For how much of these holidays are spent truly in memoriam, telling the stories of these great heroes, offering prayers to our Lord for the fallen that went before us? I'd venture that the time spent remembering is far less than the time spent enjoying cookouts and sports and time on the lake or at the park, all good things, but none of which we'd enjoy in a free land without those that went before.
In addition, we have allowed ourselves to become ignorant and apathetic as a nation regarding the price of freedom. We've elected silver-tongued charlatans who have promised us luxuries to be paid for through the labor of our brothers and sisters, who whisper in our ears that we are deserving of the fruits of their labor. They lull us into a false sense of security, giving us an endless stream of goodies while mortgaging the futures of our children and grandchildren, all the while promising us that we can "eat, drink and be merry" and that all will be well, as if there would not ever be a payment due, or as if we'd be able to get someone else to pay the price. We've allowed these villains to saddle us with enormous debt, we've allowed them to grope and probe us and spy on us in the name of security, and we've allowed them to strip us of our rights and liberty in the name of "fairness, The War on Drugs" and the "War on Poverty."
Let us then this day truly honor the memories of the fallen, by shrugging off the fog of apathy, by fighting to restore our freedoms, by living within our means as free men and women, never again enticed by the siren songs of covetousness and promises of something for nothing; for only then will we be truly free.
Louis DeBroux is a Taylorsville resident, married, with eight children. He is chairman of the Bartow County Republican Party. He owns Gatekeeper data backup and recovery. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.