Vol: 68 Issue: 26 Saturday, May 26, 2007
Memorial Day weekend has evolved from the holiday known as ‘Decoration Day’.
It was first proclaimed back in 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, when he ordered that the graves of the Civil War dead interred at Arlington national cemetery be decorated with flowers to commemorate their sacrifice.
It was a national holiday — his order included both Union and Confederate soldiers. More Americans were killed in combat during the Civil War than in all foreign wars combined.
No matter which side they were on in the conflict, they were ALL Americans.
‘Decoration Day’ became ‘Memorial Day’ by an act of Congress in 1971. Sadly, the traditions of Memorial Day have diminished through the years, as many Americans have forgotten both the meaning of the holiday and its traditions.
Today, many of the graves of the fallen have been ignored. Few people observe the proper flag etiquette for that day. On Memorial Day, proper flag etiquette requires that the Stars and Stripes be raised only to half-staff until noon, to symbolize a nation in mourning for its fallen heroes.
In December, 2000, in one of his few shining moments as President, Bill Clinton issued an Official White House Memorandum asking all Americans to pause for one minute at 3 PM on Memorial Day to reflect on the price paid by our fellow citizens for our continued freedom.
In part, the Memorandum states: “Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. While we should honor these heroes every day for the profound contribution they have made to securing our Nation’s freedom, we should honor them especially on Memorial Day.”
Unfortunately, because it was Bill Clinton responsible for this rare moment of patriotism, the memorandum has largely been ignored — to our everlasting shame.
Memorial Day is set aside to remember those young soldiers, sailors and Marines who gave up all of their tomorrows in exchange for our todays.
They will remain forever young.
Right now — at this moment — our young men and women stand between us and an enemy sworn to our national destruction. They stand in the breech, protecting us from those who consider it their highest duty to kill as many of us as possible — no holds barred.
Our enemy would cheerfully kill himself if it meant he could kill you in the process. Indeed, in one foiled attack, a young couple intended to blow an airliner out of the sky, with themselves aboard.
To avoid close scrutiny, they brought with them their young baby, who would also have died in the attack.
NO sacrifice is too great for them, if it means killing you in the process.
You and your family. If they are willing to kill their own children, they certainly would have no compunction about killing yours.
Many of the young Marine veterans of the Iraq war with whom I am personally acquainted have told me that they save their last bullet for themselves, rather than risk being taken prisoner.
Each of our young men who have fallen into enemy hands so far have turned up dead. Each was hideously tortured before dying. Some of al-Qaeda’s methods have turned up in a ‘torture handbook’ captured last month in Iraq.
The following is pretty graphic; you may want to skip the following paragraphs. But as you do, remember that our forces don’t have that option. As painful as it is to read, they face experiencing it first hand.
The manual is a how-to book on the best way to use a knife to remove an eye or cut out a tongue. It contains graphics on how to use an electric drill as an implement of torture.
How to use a blow torch, meat cleaver, whip, wire cutters, how to beat a prisoner across the soles of their feet with a rod . . . ; the ‘trick’, explains the manual, is to stop before the victim loses consciousness or dies, in order to prolong it as long as possible.
The torture isn’t being conducted to extract information. It is conducted for the express purpose of inflicting as much pain as possible before killing your brother, son, father, nephew, or friend — for the crime of being an American who loves you enough to die for you.
Joseph Anzack was just twenty years old. He played football in high school and was a member of his school’s swimming and wrestling teams. His friends remembered him as a caring buddy who was always ready to offer a helping hand or a comforting word.
PFC Anzack was captured, along with two other young men by al-Qaeda two weeks ago. His body was later found floating in the Euphrates River. Most accounts say simply that he had been shot in the chest and head. Only a few noted that the military said his body showed ‘signs of torture.’
If you didn’t skip over the paragraphs regarding the al-Qaeda torture manual, you know what ‘signs of torture’ really means. If possible, imagine what that knowledge means to his family — how much more grief it piles on them.
THAT extra measure of grief is what the enemy intended. It wasn’t enough for them to kill Joe Anzack. They wanted to kill him as much as possible, and they wanted his family to feel his terror and his torment as vividly as he did.
But most people see Memorial Day as just another three day holiday — the ‘kickoff date’ for summer. They don’t see Joe Anzack.
They aren’t praying for his two still-missing comrades, nineteen year-old Bryon Fouty or twenty-five year old Alex Jimenez — who are presumably being tortured — right now — as viciously as Joe was.
Personally, I do see Joe Anzack and I am praying for Byron and Alex. They are my brothers, my comrades and my friends, although I’ve not had the honor of meeting any of them. I’ve met many others like them, though.
Each of them knows what awaits them if they fall into the hands of our enemy. But they don’t run. They stand between you and me and those who would do the same to us, if not FOR them.
Thousands of others, just like them, keep signing up for duty, knowing full well that, in so doing, they will also find themselves in harm’s way. Why? They do it for YOU.
For YOU. And for your family. And for their siblings. They do it in the hope that you won’t have to face what they are willing to face FOR you.
I was sickened by presidential candidate John Edwards’ effort to co-opt Memorial Day as a cynical political tool.
His website, disingenously named “supporthetroopsendthewar.com” is urging supporters to crash Memorial Day ceremonies and parades with political protests.
Those on the battlefield want to end the war more than these sick, pathetic excuses for Americans do. But they know who the enemy is, and they know there is only one way to end the war.
It will only end if we win it. There is no option for a ‘draw.’ Those willing to end their own lives to take yours won’t go back home if we do. They will come here. They know that quitting the battlefield and leaving the enemy intact means Joe Anzack’s tortured death was in vain.
It means there will be many more Joe Anzacks — but not just in Iraq. In New York. In Washington. In small towns across America. Anywhere that the enemy can find Americans not under the protection of young men like Joe Anzack, Byron Fouty and Alex Jimenez.
This weekend is not just the beginning of summer. It is set aside to honor those who make the supreme sacrifice on your behalf. It is a time set aside to pray for those who protect us from harm. It is a time for us to love those who love us with a love beyond human comprehension.
It is a time when we Americans are to remember the words of Jesus Christ, the Founder of our nation and the Bestower of our prosperity:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
God bless you, my brothers, comrades, the defenders of America! I honor you and offer you my most profound thanks, admiration and respect.
I beg your forgiveness for the actions of those like John Edwards and his ilk. They do not represent me. They do not represent America. They represent themselves. Pay no attention to them. They are without honor and undeserving of your notice.
Again, quoting our Lord: “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Semper Fidelis. “Always faithful.” I pray America will see that, not as a slogan, but as a life principle. You certainly have.
Edwards and his ilk have no concept of what that means. But we, the people for whom you’ve expressed your love, not with words, but with deeds and your own blood, salute you!
Thank you for doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And may our God watch over you, protect you, and grant you victory. And may we never break faith with you, for we will then be richly deserving of our fate.