From the War of Independence to the War on Terror, the American military has stood its ground against all-comers, from dictators and enemy alliances, to rogue states and a patchwork of radical jihadists.
With headstones continuing to multiply at Arlington National Cemetery, the country celebrates yet another somber Memorial Day. Flags fly amidst the smoke from backyard barbecues on this day when we reflect on the the legions of American soldiers, sailors and airmen who died in battlefields scattered across the globe.
Though we are often too self absorbed to notice the constant uptick in fatalities after a decade of war, we can all recognize that our fallen military members and their predecessors in uniform embody the best America has to offer.
And what we offer the world is hope.
In many parts of the world billions of people live in fear of their own government, their rights given and taken at whim, their basic needs a luxury few can afford. These are also the places in which U.S. forces have toiled, amongst a populace that can barely imagine such epheremal things as freedom and democracy.
Though the U.S. makes its share of mistakes, it is evident that the world relies on our military strength to match up against countries and leaders who hold their own twisted ideals higher than the lives of their people.
That knowledge is incandescent in the minds of those in military service. It represents an ideal that would be as familiar to the Minutemen who defied a monarchy, as it would be to the soldiers and marines who fought totalitarian powers on the beaches of Normandy and from one Pacific island to the next.
Our service men and women today fight a similar enemy, whose ideal is the opposite of hope. Where our troops seek to build schools, hospitals and partnerships, the enemy delivers suicide bombs. Where our soldiers risk their lives fighting alongside foreign forces, the enemy infiltrates our ranks and commits a craven act of homicide.
Our message is hope. The message of the jihadist is fear.
As the stark white headstones dotting Arlington’s green sward continue to multiply, it is fitting to acknowledge that the countless lives lost in our wars were sacrifices that did not just protect American freedoms.
If one could trace the path of our military presence by following the headstones or unmarked graves of our warriors, it would be a route made up of invaluable waypoints which would stretch across the globe.
And the world is a better place because of their sacrifice.