One glaring problem in America today is that it seems like many have little time for sacrifice or even to comprehend its deeper meaning. We live in a nation of excess, consumption, and debt. We hear too little of our personal responsibility and need for sacrifice as it relates to maintaining liberty. The contrast should provide us with a powerful reminder of the necessity of offering more this Memorial Day and beyond. The monuments and stories pointing to extreme loss surround us.
In places like Belleau Wood, the Ardennes, the Chosin Reservoir, HuÃª”², and Fallujah, the spilling of American blood was ferocious. Just in the Eighth Air Force in World War II, more than 26,000 Americans gave their lives. There are 13,732 of our service members laid to rest just in Belgium alone, a country smaller in size than Maryland. The total number of American military buried overseas is over 125,000. It’s a reminder of not only this country’s greatness but the cost of war.
The famed trench poet Wilfred Owen wrote in “Insensibility”: “Those who feel most for others suffer most in war.” There is still tremendous suffering from families that have lost loved ones in armed conflicts. Sometimes we see them as names or merely statistics, but the heartbreak and stories are intertwined all around us. There are Gold Star mothers all across North Carolina, many of whom have lost a son or daughter in the War on Terror. Cliff Golla of Charlotte, Jason Huffman of Conover, James Justice of Grover, Christopher Levy of Ramsuer, and David Parr of Benson are just a few of the fallen North Carolinians in recent conflict.
If a majority of citizens feel that they are entitled to feed at the trough of liberty without living out personal responsibility, American will continue to flounder aimlessly. As Lord Acton, the 19th century English baron declared, “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the power to do what we ought.”
An important truth to remember about Memorial Day is that it’s not about you. This country faces enormous problems and one of the lessons the nation has to relearn, especially its leaders, is to have the moral courage to place society above their own personal pursuits. Such actions will take tremendous cultural shifts. But it can happen here. This is America and still land of the free; a country that liberated its own slaves at the cost of enormous bloodshed. This is the nation that believed it was morally imperative to free millions of slaves from their communist overseers across the globe.
Liberty requires cultivation. It was President Ronald Reagan who declared, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” We see evidence of that all around us. Redemption is going to require Americans to sacrifice. For most people it will not mean giving their life, but it does require actual cost. When many today act and portray a belief that freedom exists in a vacuum, they are only swept up into tyranny. However, America exists for so much more. Thousands of monuments and over a million graves eternally testify to that truth.