Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank A Veteran!

We get a feeling when we see the American flag raised, the national anthem played, and our men and women in uniform saluting. Children look up and put their hands over their hearts. Men take off their hats. For a moment, we are united.
But in the daily rancor of politics, which leaves so many people disappointed in their country, can we elevate that sense of American greatness that causes us to pause in those moments?
Kim Holmes says we can—and today is a good day to be reminded. America’s value is something that every veteran has fought for since the Revolution. Holmes says:
The American creed of freedom has been a unique force for good in world history. It has liberated many millions of people around the world. November 11, the day we honor our veterans, was chosen originally to commemorate the Armistice of 1918 that ended the fighting of World War I, the so-called “war to end all wars.” It didn’t, of course. We’ve gone to battle again and again to fight the forces of oppression.
Yet then, as now, Americans believed they were fighting honorably for something larger than themselves. This cause has motivated our soldiers and diplomats through the horrors of World War II, the Cold War, and beyond, and its impact has been great: No country in the history of humankind has sacrificed more than the United States to free people from bondage.
America has been great because it stood for freedom. And while the country has been going in a direction that dismays many people, it can be every bit as great again, Holmes says in his new book. In Rebound: Getting America Back to Great, the longtime Heritage policy leader explains why the idea of American greatness—sometimes referred to as “exceptionalism”— isn’t something to apologize for.
It’s simply admitting a fact about the country itself. People the world over had always known that America was different. That’s why so many millions of immigrants came here. The American Dream—the belief in hard work, individual responsibility, and freedom—set America apart and was a major reason it was so successful.
As the leader of the free world, America carries an “exceptional” burden for the security and freedom of other peoples—which is generous, not arrogant.
Today we thank all of our veterans who have fought and continue to fight for freedom around the world. They have made America’s greatness possible.
I think a wrenching and inspiring example of America's greatness is this:
Only five days after his twenty-second birthday, at an age when young people have only begun tasting life on their own, Marine Cpl. Jeff Starr was struck down by a sniper's bullet in Ramadi on Memorial Day 2005. Despite his youth, Starr was well into his third Iraqi deployment when the bullet pierced his heart. He never regained consciousness. Back in 2004, Jeff and thirteen of his fellow soldiers were pinned down in Falluja by several hundred members of the insurgency and fought tooth and claw for several long agonizing hours before reinforcements arrived. This harrowing event would make a profound impression on Starr, prompting him to compose a letter that was recovered posthumously and delivered to his parents in August, months after his death. He wrote this following prescient letter to his girlfriend:
Dearest ----
Obviously, if you are reading this, then I have died in Iraq.
I'm writing this for one reason only. On April 13th 2004, I thought I was going to die. My only regret is that I hadn't spent enough time with you. That I hadn't told you everything I wanted to. Being in Iraq for a 3rd time, I don't want to feel that way again because it was the worst feeling ever. So this letter is in case I won't ever get the chance to tell you. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark. Well I can't type forever, I know you want to read more but I thought simple and to the point would be easier. I love you with all my heart.
Goodbye my Love...
Cpl. Starr had planned to leave the Corps in August and begin a career in law enforcement. He had joined the service as a high school senior and had earned two naval medals of distinction, one for his valor. His parents, Brian and Shellie Starr of Snohomish, Washington, as well as all who loved his shining face, have borne, and will continue all of their days, to bear the burden that a young corporal saw fit to take upon his youthful shoulders. And for this we honor him on this eventful day.

Thank you, veterans, for understanding that freedom isn't free, and for sacrificing so much that the rest of us may remain so.

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