Today we honor our fallen warriors, Americans lost to battles past and those laid to rest in the passage of time. Their sacrifices are part of the reason we have the nation we have today.
Throughout history, people have served their nations for many reasons, sometimes honorable and noteworthy ones, sometimes not. While it is impossible to know for certain the reasons why Americans have served, I am willing to believe many of them did so simply because they were Americans, and that reason was enough.
From the hindsight of 15 years of military service, I have come to realize that many of the Americans I remember today served not because of some high-minded ideals of patriotism or liberty, but because they believed in something far more fundamental: the idea that it was possible to love one’s neighbor as much as oneself and that it was possible to be willing to die for that love.
I believe the Americans I remember today, in some way, came to the realization that these truths are self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. They realized that these ideals are not just some haughty words on an old piece of paper in Washington, but words that their family, friends, and fellow countrymen deserved to live by everyday.
The Americans I remember today did not serve because of government or political persuasion, but because of the people who mattered to them.
I think we could all learn a lesson from the Americans we remember today. Whatever we do in our lives, it is always about the people, never about the politics and the rhetoric. If we take that lesson to heart, then we have earned the legacy they fought and died for.