Thursday, May 12, 2016

May is for Memories, Not Maypole Dances

By Ed Evans, MGySgt., USMC (Ret.)
          Within the month of May we find Armed Services Day (May 20th) and Memorial Day (May 30th), two days set aside to remember and pay homage to those who have put on the military uniform of their nation and served with distinction the cause of freedom.  For some, the month of May merely holds the promise of springtime festivals, dancing, singing, Maypole exercises; forget the past and look to the future.
Those who have served in uniform will see it differently, a time for remembrance of friends lost in combat, honoring commitment and patriotic duty, recognizing heroes alive and dead.  Remembering the families of those who wore the uniform, those now left behind in the protection of freedom and liberty.  With that uniform put on by young men or women comes a great deal of both life and death.  Many a young man or woman has joined up because they didn’t know what else to do.  Their life was disorganized, without mission or purpose, without the grades to get into college, without skills to get out of poverty, without mentors and goals and, often, even without parental guidance.  In the military they became that man or that woman they knew they always wanted to be.
          But underlying it all, in the back of their minds, was the realization that violence, mayhem, and maybe death awaited them.  The only solution was training.  They had to be better than the violence, mayhem and death.  Death says to every warrior, “You will not survive the violence of battle.”  The warrior answers back, “I am the violence of battle.”  Training is what keeps us alive.
          Having spent 30 years in the military defending our God-given freedoms, now 27 years out of uniform, I have only recently become aware that many Americans have no appreciation for those who have purchased their freedoms with blood, sweat and tears.  That should not be surprising if we realize that for nearly two generations, no American has been obligated to join up, and few do.  Less than 0.5 percent of the population serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II.  It was novelist George Orwell who pointed out that “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  “Sleep”, yes, but act on behalf of, support, appreciate, not much.  For we have failed to teach the next generation the honor and integrity, even the necessity, of self-sacrifice for others.
             British war correspondent Rudyard Kipling pretty much covered it when he wrote 
his poem “Tommy,” which included the line, “For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' ‘Chuck 
him out, the brute!’  But it's ‘Saviour of 'is country’ when the guns begin to shoot…”  Kipling 
was addressing this age-old dilemma during the 1800’s.  Nothing about it has changed in 
modern times.
             The writer of the screenplay for “A Few Good Men,” uses a courtroom confrontation 
between U.S. Navy lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and U.S. Marine Colonel Nathan 
Jessep (Jack Nicholson), in command of Marines at Guantanamo Bay, to voice the warrior’s 
Col. Jessep: “You want answers?”
Lt. Kaffee: “I think I'm entitled to…”
Col. Jessep: “You want answers?”
Lt. Kaffee: “I want the truth!”
Col. Jessep: “You can't handle the truth!”
Col. Jessep pauses…
Col. Jessep: “Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”
             Liberals will point out that in the end the character of Col. Jessep is adjudged guilty 
because he crossed a legal line.  But that takes nothing away from the truth of his narrative.  
It stands the test of time as truth.  And truth is like a lion.  You need not protect a lion, you 
only need to set it free.
             There is one more truth to be applied here.
             I take this opportunity to address this Memorial Day 2017 because I did serve 30 
years in the military, I did fight on four battlefields, and my generation fought a number of 
wars, one a world war, to keep freedom alive in this world. It is my grandchildren upon whom 
the enemies of America will fall. My generation is too old to protect them now. It is their blood 
they will have to spill to protect their God-given freedoms. Freedoms my generation fought 
America’s enemies to protect, enemies the current generation is allowing to gain a foothold in 
this nation.
             Whether they wish to or not, the current generation stands at the head of a very long 
line of warriors and patriots who have fought and died to keep the vulnerable flame of 
freedom alive for when today’s Americans got here.  The question will soon become very 
relevant, and herein lies the final truth.  When the enemy whispers “You will not survive the 
violence of battle,” will today’s Americans be able to say, “I am the violence of battle.”  Say it 
and make it stick?

             Even as the bands play and the heroes of yesterday are remembered, we must look 
at the society we have inherited and wonder, how long?  How long will America’s freedom