The Revolutionary War. The War of 1812. The Civil War. The Spanish-American War. World War I. World War II. The Korean War. The Vietnam War. The Gulf War. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
So many wars — and those are just the ones that have official names. In between there have been countless smaller conflicts and instances of service, where members of the armed forces have fought against the Barbary pirates, or rescued hostages, or delivered crucial supplies to survivors of hurricanes or earthquakes. And in the middle of it all has been the individual Americans serving in the Navy, the Army, the Marines, the Air Force, or the Coast Guard, who have safeguarded our shores, fought against the oppressors, and delivered help in times of need — and often made the ultimate sacrifice.
To those who have fallen, to those who have served, to the veterans and to the active members of the armed forces: Thank you.
During this presidential campaign, Americans have focused on our troubled economy and other domestic problems. Yesterday, we were rudely reminded, yet again, that there is a big, unfriendly world outside our borders.
On the day of the Cairo attack, the U.S. Embassy there issued a curious statement that said: “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.” The statement was condemned by many as a mealy-mouthed apology to Muslims, and the Obama Administration later indicated that the statement was not cleared and does not reflect the Administration’s views.
The United States has poured billions of dollars into the Middle East — Egypt has for years been one of the largest recipients of American aid — and supported the “Arab Spring” uprising in Libya with military assistance. All of that is forgotten, of course, when some unknown movie supposedly bruises the tender religious sensibilities of fringe elements of the Islamic faith, and their grossly disproportionate response is to physically attack official American installations and kill an innocent diplomat who had nothing to do with the offensive film.
And, amidst it all, our embassy personnel think it appropriate to “condemn the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims” and to invoke 9/11 in doing so? What “continuing efforts” are they talking about, by the way? Doesn’t that statement send an appalling message of weakness to the radicals who mean to do us harm?
We ask an awful lot of our Marines who are serving in Afghanistan. They are working in brutally difficult conditions that may include searing heat or frigid cold. We want them to encourage democracy while at the same fighting terrorists who are perfectly happy to hide among civilians and to put innocent lives at risk when they attack. And now we have asked our Marines to — stop audible farting when they are in the presence of Afghans.
Isn’t it a bit ridiculous to ask a bunch of tough Marines to avoid farting aloud, even when Mother Nature commands the opposite? Have our Leathernecks been trained to determine with certainty which bloated feeling might produce a silent but deadly emission versus the echoing whoopie cushion ripper? And are we at least helping them out by serving meals that don’t include the traditional gas producing foods like, say, refried beans or White Castle sliders? Is Beano stockpiled at every American base?
Recently Kish and I went to a funeral service for a veteran. The service featured the presentation of the colors. It reminded me, yet again, of the extraordinary power of ceremony in our lives.
In this instance, the presentation of the colors ceremony was performed by three Marines. It was accomplished deliberately, in complete silence, and with great dignity and respect. The three Marines walked down the center aisle of the church at stately pace and retrieved a folded flag from the altar. They slowly unfolded it so that the flag was fully unfurled when Taps was played. The Marines then carefully refolded the flag, presented it to each other, and slowly saluted the colors before presenting the folded flag to the widow and walking slowly out of the church. This simple ceremony was the culmination of the service and was a deeply felt moment for everyone present in the church.
In this case, the man who had passed was a true hero — a Marine who had fought and suffered grievous, life-threatening injuries in the Battle of Okinawa, recovered, and returned to normal life to make enormous contributions to his family, his community, and his profession. How can you adequately recognize the personal sacrifices that he, and his fellow veterans, have made on behalf of us all? Ceremony provides us with a means of accomplishing what mere words cannot. The presentation of the colors, performed with appropriate silence, gravity and care, is a powerful way to demonstrate our esteem and gratitude for those who have served.