One Memorial Day weekend when I was a teenager, a friend of mine asked, “Why give a day to resurrect all these emotions? Why not just move on?” Maybe it was my youth but I didn’t really have a good answer for him, I just said something to the effect of “Well, we need to remember them, its important.” After having served in the Marine Corp and after having lost friends in our present day conflicts, I think about the question my friend asked and I marvel at how distant and disconnected I was from the profound importance of this day. Now, after having spent several years as a Marine Corps infantry squad leader and after the loss of loved ones in these violent conflicts, I know exactly why we take time to specifically honor the memory of the fallen.
We remember them because they are special and unique from any other soldier, sailor, airman and marine the world has ever known. World history is full of empires, kingdoms and nations who never understood freedom the way Americans have. What makes the American military man or woman so different is that when they are called to service, it is not in the defense of a dictator or to acquire more wealth for some king. Our own Declaration of Independence states that governments are instituted to protect our rights and we are a blessed nation because we have men and women who serve in the armed forces to secure that end. Americans fight in the defense of liberty and for the security of our freedoms. When reflecting on the fact that our troops take an oath to the Constitution and not to a person, I cannot help but be humbled by the fallen soldier who ultimately laid down his life for the cause of preserving my personal freedom.
We remember them because for the last century Americans have sent our youngest and brightest to defend liberty for people across the sea. On June 6th, 1944, American teenagers stormed the fortified beaches of Normandy, France and fought battle after bloody battle until they defeated a bloodthirsty murderous tyrant bent on world domination. I remember picking up a paper on my base the week after 9-11 and seeing pictures of Army and Navy recruiting stations with lines out the door of young men eagerly wanting to enlist to fight the Al-Qaede. Many of these young people died far away from their families because they chose to patrol through the ankle deep Persian sand and the steep Afghan mountains just so we wouldn’t have to. For most of our history, Americans have eagerly volunteered to serve when we needed them most and that alone is worth remembering from time to time.
Thank you 2nd Lt. Cathey and Cpl Tremblay, I miss you both and I am honored to have known you and to have served with you and I will never forget what you have done for me and my fellow Americans. I promise that I will do my best to complete your sacrifice and I will always fight for the freedom of the people and for the security of their liberty.