Memorial Day, a Day of Thanksgiving!
by: Col Bob Pappas, USMC, Ret.

Memorial Day was originally established in 1868 to remember those who died in the Civil War. It was originally "Decoration Day" because it was marked by speeches, parades, flags and flowers. In 1971 it was re designated as Memorial Day and is now celebrated in memory of all who have died while serving in the Armed Forces in the Nation's defense.

War is a terrible thing, it is destructive of property, fortunes, families and lives. It scourges the earth and hearts of mankind. It turns civilized people into barbarians and guts society of its very soul. But worse than war is peace without security, peace without civility, peace without love or joy, peace without sovereignty, national pride, peace without prosperity, and peace without freedom.

There have been and are many Americans who would rather have peace at any price, even under a totalitarian system of government rather than defend sovereignty, liberty and individual freedom. Under a totalitarian system, and Islam is a Religiopoliticalsocioeconomic totalitarian system, the government dictates ones every move; what one can do, and what one cannot. Where one can go, and where one cannot go. Under that system those in power are the elite and the remainder are faceless, nameless masses. Under that system, the government dictates who goes to school and who will become what, in life. Totalitarian government pervades every facet of life from ones birth, even to determine whether or not one can give birth and how many and of what kind, to ones demise, whether early or late, and how. The Government elite do all the planning, all the thinking, all of the management, and hold all of the power. Under such a system, government is the total focus of ones existence, and bureaucrats determine personal destinies; at its zenith it is a poor substitute for God, and if you don't like it you might just loose your head.

Unlike totalitarian regimes, this nation was founded upon principles that have made it foremost among nations in the world today. The principles are well spelled out in the Constitution, but those principles alone would mean nothing without benevolent statesmanship underwritten by the personal commitment of patriots who serve in the Armed Forces. By personal commitment is meant the physical, mental and emotional commitment to become the toughest, best trained and educated fighting force in the world. The pay is poor to average and the hours are long and hard. Hardships are not a few and working conditions often do not meet routinely accepted standards.

When called upon, the men and women of the Armed Forces must leave their families, children, friends and sweethearts behind--frequently traveling to desolate and strangely named places. There, they endure rigorous hardships, deprivation and mortal danger. They are frequently called upon to go into "harm's" way in the defense of the nation's vital interests. Most survive, but some do not--and it is the memory of those who made that ultimate sacrifice that we honor on Memorial Day.

All who have served in wartime know the empty, gut wrenching feeling of losing comrades and friends. Families and loved ones of those who are killed or who are missing in action feel the desolation and devastation that accompanies such an event, as only they can. No amount of "feeling ones pain" can substitute for enduring the unendurable. No amount of acceptance of responsibility by political leaders, or of monetary compensation for the loss of a loved one can fill the infinite void created when one's child, father, brother, sister, husband or wife is lost while serving the nation's security interests.

Today, our nation is engaged in a war that will determine the course of western civilization for generations to come; and never before have there been so few politicians with so little military experience. That fact bodes caution and the need for citizen awareness and education. As one who served in the uniform of the United States Marine Corps for nearly 30 years, during the longest most costly war in America's history, the Cold War/WWIII, the writer can state unequivocally that peace is a precious commodity and war is indeed "hell." But peace does not come without a price, nor is it sustained without military preparedness to defend the nation.

A number of years ago, there was a Marine Corps recruiting slogan that stated, "Nobody's looking for a fight, but somebody has to know how." There are not many in the Congress who know how, and what's worse, they don't necessarily rely on those who do, or heed their counsel.

We pay tribute on Memorial Day to those patriots who have made possible this, the strongest, and arguably the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. We thank and praise those patriots for their commitment, for the loneliness and fear that they endure, and for their courage. We thank them for making it possible for Americans to assemble freely, without fear of government intervention or retaliation.

We thank that long line of patriots who served and died, from the first shot of the American Revolution to the Great Civil War; we thank those patriots who served and died in the War with Spain and the First World War. We thank the hundreds of thousands who gave their lives to destroy Hitler's Third Reich and Japan's Imperialist ambitions. We thank and remember those who fought and died in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, the Gulf War and the multi-front War on Terror. Without their sacrifices our nation would be a vastly different place today.

But our thanks would be incomplete if we thanked only the dead heroes of bygone wars, for America is a land of the living. So, we also thank the ones who serve on the ramparts of freedom around the world today. We thank them, for enduring the hardships and salaries so low that until the last few years they qualified for food stamps and income supplement to make ends meet. We thank them for surrendering their civil rights and serving under military law that restricts their personal freedom in ways that only those who serve or have served, can understand; and, we thank them for going into harm's way to defend the freedom that we enjoy.

Yes, while we salute and honor the valiant dead, whose memory is precious to us, we also salute the living patriots who stand as a bulwark between the nation's freedom and prosperity and the abyss of chaos and anarchy or worse, a totalitarian Islamic theocracy.

God bless them; God bless their families; God bless freedom loving people everywhere; and, God bless and protect the United States of America.

Semper Fidelis

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Copyright May 27th, 2005, by Robert L. Pappas. With proper attribution, this essay may be quoted and redistributed. It may not be used in any way, in conjunction with any advertisement without the author's expressed written permission.

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