War is not a desirable means to an end but it is sometimes necessary to preserve the freedoms we enjoy as a democratic republic. Freedom always comes with a price, the ultimate being the lives of men and women who honorable serve in our armed forces. Throughout our nation’s history, men and women have been willing to die to preserve the freedom we enjoy today. Their courageous and heroic acts are noted in history books, documentary films, autobiographies and movies. May we never forget that freedom cost the lives of our own and will continue to be costly because freedom is a coveted asset.
The Pacific featured war heroes such as Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery on Guadalcanal when he commanded two sections of machine guns against 3,000 Japanese soldiers for over 48 hours before reinforcements arrived. He was also awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for heroic actions on Iwo Jima, where he died.
The Medal of Honor has been awarded to 3,448 brave military personnel who have died in the line of duty. This number represents less than one percent of the soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. According to Wikipedia, 1,315,351 fatalities have been recorded for all the wars and conflicts in which the United States has fought. Over our 234 year history as a nation, this represents an elite group of honorable citizens to whom I owe my appreciation. Most recently, the United States has sacrificed ,1082 soldiers and marines in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (May 24, 2010 according to Icasualties.org). Every life given in the pursuit of defending our liberties deserves tribute from those who live to enjoy it.
Speaking to graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point on Saturday, President Obama stated, “Time and again, Americans have risen to meet and to shape moments of change. This is one of those moments - an era of economic transformation and individual empowerment; of ancient hatreds and new dangers; of emerging powers and new global challenges. And we're going to need all of you to help meet these challenges. You've answered the call. You, and all who wear America's uniform, remain the cornerstone of our national defense, the anchor of global security. And through a period when too many of our institutions have acted irresponsibly, the American military has set a standard of service and sacrifice that is as great as any in this nation's history.”
Americans should never forget the sacrifices made by brave men and women who served honorably and died while serving in war. This Memorial Day, take time to thank those who have served, current military personnel, and military family members. Honor the American Flag and pray for our nation’s political leaders and troops serving to defend our freedom. Pledge to uphold the freedoms granted in our Constitution. May the sacrifice of our military always be remembered with honor and appreciation from a grateful nation.
Susan McConnell is the author of Raising Great Kids in a Tough World (Nelson, 2005) and Parenting in Tough Times (Eagle Books, 2007)