Some Sobering Thoughts for Memorial Day


I pass these thoughts along from the Wall Street Journal of 5/26/2016 in hopes of stirring your thoughts and hearts beyond the beach or backyard barbeque.

At time like these we need such reminders, and I have highlighted some of these words that resonate with me.

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The cemetery for American soldiers who died in the invasion of Normandy, France, in 1944. Photo: Getty Images

The cemetery for American soldiers who died in the invasion of Normandy, France, in 1944. Photo: Getty Images

The American Dead in Foreign Fields

On Memorial Day or any other day, the cemeteries for those Americans who fell in battle offer profound lessons.

By Uwe E. Reinhardt May 25, 2016 6:24 p.m. ET 61 COMMENTS

WSJ | 2016-05-25T22:24:00.000Z

If you have not ever done so, I urge you to program into your next trip abroad a visit to an American military cemetery. There are quite a few in Europe, and some in Asia. You can find a list online.

These cemeteries are settings of an awesome serenity and beauty, immaculately kept by the American Battle Monuments Commission. As Americans, we must thank the architects who designed these settings and the workers who over the decades and to this day have kept them in their immaculate condition.

My wife, born in China and reared in Taiwan, and I, born in Germany and a longtime U.S. citizen, first visited the World War II cemeteries when our American-born children were young. We would tell them: Here rest some of the warriors who sacrificed their lives so that your parents and people in many parts of the world would be free from tyranny and could pursue their dreams in freedom. We made it clear to our children that this was not just a grown-up talk—that it was real and part of their proud heritage.

The lesson must have stuck. Last year our eldest child, now a fully grown man, urged me to come along to visit the battlegrounds in Germany, near the Belgian border, where U.S. troops fought so bravely and where so many of them—too many—met their early death.

This time we visited the large American cemetery near the Belgian town of Henri-Chapelle, about 20 miles west of the German city of Aachen. There rest the warriors who fell in the brutal, four-month-long battle of the Hürtgen Forest, followed by the Battle of the Bulge and the eventual push of American forces all the way to the Rhine River.

You can walk along the gravel paths of these cemeteries, and among the thousands of markers—crosses and Stars of David—beneath which the warriors rest. Pick a marker at random and adopt the soldier whose name is chiseled into that marker. Make him your father, or brother, or cousin, or a friend. Imagine him alive, and how you might have hugged him as he shipped out to the distant front.

However brutal his death may have been, you will draw solace from knowing that he rests here, in this serene setting, alongside his buddies who shared his fate. You may even imagine that somehow, don’t ask how, the fallen soldier may know that you are visiting him, to pay your respects.

You may not be able to suppress some tears; I never can. Perhaps in my case it is because I have taught American college freshman for so many years that I can vividly imagine the warriors alive, playing boisterously when they were not fighting or resting, dreaming of some sweetheart they left behind, and imagining what they might do with their lives when the war finally ended and they could go home again. Perhaps it is also because they met their untimely death because of the murderous deeds my birth country had inflicted upon the world at that time. It deepens my sorrow.

But whatever emotions you may bring to a visit there and take away from it, I promise that you will not soon forget it.

You will come away with renewed and strengthened respect for those of your fellow Americans willing to wear the nation’s military uniform and to bear the ultimate sacrifice one can make for one’s country. If you are a student, you will look with fresh eyes at the few among your classmates in the ROTC, learning, along with their regular studies, how to become officers in America’s armed forces.

And you will reflect deeply on our nation’s role in the world. Whatever our flaws as a people have been in the past and still are today, you will realize, standing there among the thousands of gravestones, that in the sweep of history, ours is a grand nation of which you can and should be proud.

Mr. Reinhardt is a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University.

And this …

Note especially the connection from the words I have highlights in the Mills essay with the words of Mr.Reinhardt above

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John Stuart Mill (1806-73), circa 1860. Photo: Getty Images

John Stuart Mill (1806-73), circa 1860. Photo: Getty Images

Notable & Quotable: John Stuart Mill

A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice . . . is often the means of their regeneration.’

May 25, 2016 6:23 p.m. ET 16 COMMENTS

WSJ | 2016-05-25T22:23:00.000Z

From English philosopher and political economist ’s “The Contest in America” for Fraser’s magazine, February 1862:

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. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice—is often the means of their regeneration. 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 long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.

Copyright ©2016 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Reprint submittals have been sent.

Don Johnson – May 2016

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