This Memorial Day, I will remember the 4,435 Americans who died revolting against the tyranny of King George in the American Revolution.
I will remember the 2,260 Americans who died fighting the British again in the War of 1812.
I will remember the 13,283 Americans who died in the Mexican War.
I will remember the 558,052 Americans, on both sides, who died in our bloodiest war, the war between the Union and the Confederacy.
I will remember the 2,246 Americans who died in the Spanish-American War.
I will remember the 116,708 Americans who died fighting German aggression in World War I.
I will remember the 407,316 Americans who died defeating fascism in Europe and imperialism in the Pacific during World War II.
I will remember the 33,651 Americans who died battling North Korea.
I will remember the 58,168 Americans who died in Vietnam, including my best friend from high school, killed by a sniper in June of 1968, at the tender age of 20.
I will remember the 293 Americans who died driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait during the Gulf War.
I will remember the 2,464 Americans who were murdered by our Islamist enemies at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.
I will remember the 506 Americans who have died so far liberating and securing Afghanistan.
I will remember the 4,081 Americans who have died liberating and securing Iraq.
I will remember the simple words carved in stone at the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC: “Freedom isn’t free.”
I will remember those who have paid the price for that freedom, which I so often take for granted.
I will remember that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the willingness to act decisively in spite of fear.
I will remember that there have always been far more tyrants than freely elected statesmen, and that brave Americans have had to pay the ultimate price to preserve liberty throughout our nation’s history.
I will remember that the United States of America has always been a fragile experiment defended by ordinary men called upon to do extraordinary things in times of great peril.
This Memorial Day weekend, many Americans will visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. It took our nation far too long to erect and dedicate it, and many who served in that epic struggle are no longer here to see it. In fact, we are now losing the members of that generation, most of whom are now in their eighties, at a rate of more than 1,000 per day.
There was never any adequate way for us to thank them for what they did. They never expected that we should. Like all those who have laid down their lives for freedom in all of America’s wars, they simply did what destiny called them to do. When their war was finished, those who survived returned home to resume their lives and stoically cope with the horrors they had seen.
This Memorial Day, I will remember that even as the free nations of the world could have lost World War II, without the will to be victorious America could still lose the worldwide war on terror.
As always, this year I will commemorate the sacrifice of my grandfather and my father, who served in World Wars I and II, respectively. They are now buried next to their beloved wives in a small cemetery on a hilltop surrounded by rolling farmland in Montgomery County in Southwest Iowa.
I will remember their service, and the noble lives they led after returning home. I will remember that they helped to preserve a legacy of freedom and opportunity for those of us who came after them.
This Memorial Day, I will remember those who sacrificed to protect my God-given rights.
© Copyright 2008 by Doug Patton
Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a political speechwriter and public policy advisor. His weekly columns are published in newspapers across the country and on selected Internet web sites, including Human Events Online, TheConservativeVoice.com and GOPUSA.com, where he is a senior writer and state editor. Readers may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.