All nations call upon their citizens in time of need. When the diplomacy of words ends, and the diplomacy of the sword begins that is where service becomes exemplary. In the on-going conflicts of the nation state. In the festering cauldron of combat there is no medal or ribbon to be added to the chest of heroes. All that is left is the memory of the vibrancy of the citizen who died for their nation. Whether called to service by their nation against their will, pressed into service at societies whim, or volunteering on the balance of idealism the soldier and sailor marches to war. For us.
Our personal politics written in the strife of a polarized society come together on one day a year to a date where the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms was paid by those we sent into harms way. Some complain that war is not “their” way, or that they did not send soldiers to do battle. What horribly misguided and immature idealism and failing in reflective thought some people must engage in. I mourn the peers of my grand parents and further back who sacrificed for my freedoms. I relish and enjoy those freedoms and try a little way every day to do those freedoms justice. Every generation has strife that defines it even if the strife is merely angst and apathy.
Every single day of our nations history young men and women have stood at the sharp point of democracy and diplomacy. In wartime and peacetime our fellow citizens have died while serving our country. In a society rich with luxuries and jobs it is a relative few who serve their country first rather than be served by that country. Freedom to live, freedom to think, freedom to peace, and so much more is the long lived legacy of service.
The U.S. Marine, soldier and sailor serves a country built on core democratic principles. As a country we may not live up to the highest regard of those principles, but on the contested land where death lies in wait those principles are found in the fear behind eyes, the stink of unfathomed emotion, the cool drench of pain along the spine, and the measured drum beat of a funeral procession. It is fine to have principles when somebody might argue with you. It is quite another to maintain a tradition and principles when you stand at the intersection or death and dismemberment and roll the dice of chance.
Every soldier, sailor and Marine that has died in service to our country is important. Every sacrifice is heroic. Some died in combat, some died in training, and others died in far gone places doing things I likely can not understand. It does not matter as they were important and we shall mourn their loss even more. The poignancy of the current conflict, the current national altercation, the most recent events will fill our minds. Those who died today and yesterday stand in a long line of servicemen reaching back to the birth of our country. For each we should mourn personally and collectively. For each we should remember and respect that ultimate sacrifice.
Some say there are no more heroes. Some say there are no more role models. Looking at the long lines of flags standing at every military tombstone. Seeing the stoic pride and considered deliberation as those flags are placed. It is not that I think those who have died are the only heroes. It is because they did serve our country, even though they died, they are heroes. Each hero buried by their country represents the end of a line. The end of their life. The end of their contribution to society. This is the intersection of the ultimate cost to a society and the ultimate price to an individual. This is the true magnitude of the debt society owes every service member who has paid the ultimate price. Death is the ultimate arbiter of excess. Riches and power evaporate with the last staggered breath. In service a legacy is born and it our duty to honor it even if only for one day.
A single day to come together as a country and mourn the lost years of life for every soldier, sailor and marine who has died for our freedoms is but one small sacrifice of service we can make as a nation.
Thank you for your time.