But there is another much, much larger and important debt. One that can never be repaid. That is to the men and women who have paid the ultimate price serving our country in the armed forces. It is also to their families.
Statistically, 99% of Americans wake up every morning and enjoy their freedom. The remaining 1% will defend that freedom, without sleeping.
When a recruit takes the oath of enlistment, he or she writes a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life. That is the most honorable thing to do for one's country. When you raise your right hand and swear that you will serve your country, no matter what.
Servicemen and women don’t have the luxury of picking the war in which they will fight.
When an active duty Marine gets word that his unit is being sent to Afghanistan, he doesn't say: "Well, I'd rather not." An Army Reservist, when called up from her civilian job, doesn't think: "You know, I think I'll sit this one out."
Did we really have to fight in Vietnam? Did we really have to fight to free Europe and Asia during World War II?
The Americans we are honoring this weekend had no choice. And because they did not get to pick and choose, we should not have a choice either about deciding which war is worthy of their sacrifice. They knowingly sacrificed their lives serving their country.
In the words of John Stuart Mill:
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse....A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
As we prepare to enjoy a long weekend of memorials and
picnics, let us also remember that we are still a nation at war; one that started decades ago and only came ashore on 9/11. God only knows how long it will last, but you can be sure that our armed forces will remain vigilant. Please keep them in your prayers.
In closing, a quote written during our War of Independence :
"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he or she that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman...What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated..."