by Doug Patton
"The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training - sacrifice." - Gen. Douglas MacArthur
On March 20, 1942, my father, on leave from the Army, married my mother in an Indiana courthouse, near where she was training to become a Registered Nurse.
His National Guard unit, called to active duty shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, had been training for months in the swamps of Louisiana, and this was the last chance these two high school sweethearts would have to say their vows to each other before he shipped out to an unknown destiny in war-torn Europe.
They were nineteen years old, and they would not see each other again until August of 1945.
Last Friday, Jan. 24th, Ryan Sedlachek and Carrie Davis, of Omaha, were married. They had planned a big wedding in June. Nearly 300 invitations had been sent out. The cake had been ordered. Counting the Maid of Honor and the Best Man, ten attendants were to participate in the ceremony.
Instead, two witnesses stood beside them in front of a judge at the county courthouse. The big wedding would have to wait. Another war looms, and just as my parents and countless other members of The Greatest Generation had to choose between a quick courthouse wedding or the possibility of never having the opportunity to exchange those vows at all, Ryan and Carrie chose to stand before a judge and pledge their allegiance to each other—“until death do us part.”
For Ryan, that is a real possibility. He is an Army reservist with the 530th Military Police battalion based in Omaha. On Wednesday of last week, he received orders to report for active duty the following Monday.
“If something happened to him, I would never forgive myself for not marrying him before he left,” Carrie said.
The 2003 story of Ryan and Carrie Sedlachek is much the same as the story of Don and Donna Patton 61 years earlier. America has been attacked by an enemy bent on our destruction. Tyranny, always present in the world, has once again reared its head to threaten freedom-loving people, who must now lay down their civilian pursuits and respond to a call to arms.
Of course, it won’t take three and a half years for Ryan and Carrie to be reunited, assuming that Ryan survives. But make no mistake: the stakes are just as high.
So why does this war feel so different? A number of reasons come to mind. After America endured a stalemate in Korea and a loss in Vietnam, we became a nation unsure of our ability to win a military conflict. Ronald Reagan’s victory over our Cold War adversaries, followed by George H. W. Bush’s triumph in the Persian Gulf, helped to restore our confidence. But our nebulous incursions into Asia still haunt us.
But there is another reason for our uncertainty. We have lost our moral focus and forgotten the lessons of history. The Greatest Generation came out of high school knowing the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. Today, those lines are blurred.
Thus, unlike our parents and grandparents, who could recognize that an attack from Japan was an attack from Germany, many Americans today can’t see the connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorism. Moral relativism and political correctness run amok precludes the profiling necessary to make judgments about the motives and alliances of our sworn enemies.
Democracies do not wage war against one another. Liberty creates a desire for peace, and the self-governing are content to live and let live. It is tyranny that breeds war, and it is the burden of free people to stop totalitarians.
For the sake of America, I hope Ryan and Carrie Sedlachek understand this as well as Don and Donna Patton did.
© 2003 by Doug Patton
Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a speechwriter and public policy advisor at the federal, state and local levels. His weekly columns can be read in newspapers across the country. Readers can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.