Each Memorial Day, we collectively gather as a nation to honor all those who gave of themselves the last full measure of devotion in defense of our nation and the principles upon which it stands.
Though we set aside this special day to reflect on these sacrifices and those who made them, it is our duty as citizens never to lose awareness of the reality, and the full human impact, of what these sacrifices entailed, and the costs and suffering borne by those we honor, and by their families.
These are costs which should never be factored lightly in our policies, and should always be at the forefront of every decision about the use of our military. As a society, we should always insist that our leaders call upon the brave men and women of our armed forces to put themselves in harms way only as a last resort, and only when the defense of our nation and its collective interests and democratic institutions are legitimately and demonstrably threatened.
The recent unveiling of the Memphis Belle at the National Museum of the United States Air Force brings the memory and significance of those threats into sharp focus. It exemplifies the fight against the greatest existential threat to democracy in our nation’s history thus far: the fascist war machines of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan during World War II. It is an honor and a privilege to have this iconic aircraft permanently displayed here in our community in Greene County. Its presence should help us rededicate ourselves to the freedoms and values we Americans and our allies were defending in that war, freedoms and values that are summarily expressed in and imprinted upon the World War II Service Medal awarded to every one of our military personnel who served in that global conflict – freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from want and fear. Americans understood that these essential principles of freedom are what distinguish free people from those who live under tyranny. They represent the core American values for which our troops fought, with the leadership of an administration that did not validate swastika carriers, but fought to destroy them, to rid our world of their pernicious and tyrannical ideology.
May this Memorial Day serve to not only remind us of the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, but to help us reinvigorate our dedication to the fulfillment of the democratic principles that so many fought for, principles which continue to animate the truest elements and expressions of our nation’s vision and soul.