Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day and This Republic: From WWII to the War On Terror

By Zach Foster
Continued from Part 1: From the Revolution to WWI

World War II was a war the country tried to stay out of, but was provoked into.  Four long hard years and four hundred thousand deaths later, the United States brought an end to the wars in Europe and Asia with the help of its allies, and singlehandedly ended the war in the Pacific islands.  The survivors of the holocaust were freed, nations’ independence was restored, and a new weapon emerged which had the power to destroy the world several times over.  Despite growing fears, this weapon has yet to be used again since Nagasaki.  Despite many problems occurring as a result of the war, such as divisions of countries between north and south, east and west, arms races, and a series of “limited wars,” most survivors of the war have been better off since the rubble was cleared and civilizations rebuilt.  Despite the need to occupy and pacify Germany and Japan, these countries have advanced and flourished more beautifully than they could have under their old martial regimes, and those countries liberated by the U.S. military remember their rape and subjugation by the Nazi German and Japanese Empires, and to this day continue to erect monuments to their American liberators.  For this alone, all the men and women—the infantry troops, tank drivers, bomber pilots, sappers, medics, doctors, nurses, artillery troops, sharpshooters, and all others—who died at Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Tarawa, Tinian, Tripoli, Algiers, Casablanca, Cairo, Baghdad, Anzio, Tuscany, Rome, Normandy, Brussels, Amsterdam, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Luxemburg City, in the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans, Berlin, and Okinawa, did not die in vain, and their legacy lives on.

The fact that South Korea still exists as a nation independent of Stalinism and the Kim Dynasty is testimony enough to the worthiness of the sacrifices made by Americans and their South Korean and United Nations allies at Incheon, the Chosin Reservoir, Seoul, Pyongyang, and Pork Chop Hill.  South Korea is free because of American service members.  They are free to travel where they please, free to read what books they want, free to love and hate whomever they will, free to pick any religion to practice, and free to vote for any candidate in any party.

The same mission applied to South Vietnam, who was being invaded by the North.  Despite the tragedy of April 1975, Americans fought tooth and nail to free Vietnam of the North Vietnamese and their Vietcong guerrilla faction, with the South Vietnamese, South Koreans, Australians, and New Zealanders at our side.  The war was won—by 1973 the North Vietnamese army was broken and crippled, Vietcong was all but wiped off the planet, and North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords recognizing South Vietnam’s right to exist.  Furthermore, the sacrifices made by American troops in Laos and Cambodia helped keep those countries free of being Hanoi’s puppets.  It was an anti-war and anti-South Vietnam Congress that walked out on their commitment to South Vietnam which lost the victory.  However, to this very day, there are thousands of proud South Vietnamese patriots who have nothing but gratitude to the two million soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen who fought for their freedom.

In the Persian Gulf, Iraq under Saddam had literally occupied and annexed Kuwait.  It was a coalition with a majority of American troops that freed Kuwait, and to this day, Liberation Day is celebrated throughout the small country.

This country was attacked and over three thousand civilians were slaughtered by Al Qaeda on September 11, 2001, leading the nation’s cream of the crop to the desert once again, this time to fight Al Qaeda and their Taliban supporters.  Nearly ten years later, Americans are still at war in Afghanistan, though there is more stability there now than there ever was during the Soviet War and the reigns of terror from 1992-2001.  Ahmed Shah Massoud was the last holdout against the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and their Pakistani Army allies.  Massoud led the Northern Alliance against these jihadist armies, and under his administration, children were educated, women’s rights were upheld, and everyone’s human rights were upheld.  At the same time, bodies were regularly hanging from windowsills and light poles in Kabul where the Taliban ruled.  Massoud was killed one month before the U.S. invasion, but the spirit and traditions of the Northern Alliance continue.  Its civil leaders today hold many positions in the Afghan government, despite the corruption introduced by various ex-warlords.  Most of its guerrillas are proud members of the Afghan National Army.

In 2003 the, bad intelligence and poor Executive Branch leadership spawned the Iraq War.  The toppling of Saddam’s regime was easy.  Nation building was a nightmare, as an angry Al Qaeda ousted from Afghanistan and envious jihadists from around the Middle East now found a new battleground on which to wage their perverted holy war against America.  The war initially was a mistake, but Americans realized that they could not create chaos and then abandon an entire population; something had to come out of the Iraq War in order to stop April 1975 from ever happening again.  Eight years later, the United States and Iraq have paid a heavy price for freedom.  The rate of casualties dwindles as the Iraqi Army and Police are able to crush the dying insurgency on their own.

The Taliban are not yet defeated, though more desert and return home every day.  Someday the war will be over, and decades from now Iraq and Afghanistan will be to the Middle East what South Korea is today in East Asia: prosperous and democratic, all at a heavy price.

Memorial Day is about those who fought and died for America’s freedom, and so that other oppressed people around the world may know a similar freedom.  Remember that those who came home missing arms, legs, and eyes, and those who never made it home at all, were somebody’s loved ones.  They were OUR loved ones.  They were our fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, sisters, mothers, and daughters.  They are still loved by those they left behind, and it is the responsibility of every American, as well as every person whose freedom came from America, that some nineteen year old kid enlisted and fought, and died in a mud hole so that we wouldn’t get drafted; so that we could spend Memorial Day barbequing hamburgers and hot dogs with our families instead of spending every day in a labor camp, or dead under six feet of earth.

Most Americans have read the following poem, but have usually taken it for granted.

It is the VETERAN,
Not the preacher,
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN,
Not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN,
Not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN,
Not the campus organizer,
Who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the
Not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN,
Not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the VETERAN
Who salutes the Flag.

It is the VETERAN
Who serves under the Flag,


“If you are able,
save them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.

And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind.”

--MAJ Michael Davis O’Donnell, KIA 24 MAR 1970, Cambodia

It is time to bring this Memorial Day message to a close so that this author may spend the afternoon with his family.  To all those who fought and died so that others may simply have a chance… thank you.

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