Former SEAL officer Leif Babin on A Tradition of Sacrifice, From Yorktown to Ramadi:
Let's remember on Memorial Day—and every other day, for that matter—that America did not become a nation without a fight. Last week, I found myself in Washington, D.C., admiring a bronze statue of George Washington. The statue shows him as a general, astride a horse, sword drawn at the ready. This was Washington as a true American leader, inspiring those around him by showing that he too was willing to risk death for the cause of victory. The statue brought to mind the thousands of soldiers who marched with him into battle against the British, facing seemingly impossible odds.
It was not the Declaration of Independence that gave us freedom but the Continental Army. America was born from conflict, delivered by soldiers willing to pay with their blood the tremendous cost of freedom.
The dead did not wish to be martyred. They no doubt longed to return to their homes and families. But they believed in the "glorious cause," something far greater than themselves. Despite knowing the dangers before them, they followed Gen. Washington into the fray even when victory seemed hopeless and the cause all but lost.
In America today, there are those who believe that under no circumstances is war the answer. Violence only begets more violence, we're told. The unstated message: Nothing is worth fighting and dying for. History disagrees.
Knowing firsthand the hardships of combat gives me all the more reason to admire and stand in awe of those who marched with Washington and gave their lives for the United States of America. Most will never be depicted in bronze, but their sacrifices matter. The legions of American warriors since then who sacrificed their lives have not done so eagerly, nor have they done so blindly. They acted willingly because they believed in a great nation that is worth fighting and dying for.
Memorial Day is a living monument to them, a recognition of freedom's cost. May we never take those sacrifices for granted.