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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 5-27-22 – Memorial Day Weekend

“Somewhere along the way, someone sacrificed enough to crush the rot of tyranny in order to plant the seeds of freedom. And if we don’t carefully tend to the harvest, we will eventually inherit the tyranny.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

At heart, I am a patriotic American. But, like most other matters in the world these days, such

feelings are complex. We tend to distill such things into two-dimensional cut outs. What is patriotism? It is not simply hanging out an American Flag, having a cookout on an extra day off, or even attending a Memorial Day parade. Our nation is a complex place. We were born out of revolution against tyranny. We set out to set up a new form of government. An experiment in self-rule. It had then, as now deep fissures and flaws. We are a miraculous and flawed nation in the same breath.

Our founders knew that there is no perfect form of government. Their genius was that it just might be possible to set up government so our worst facets, the unquenchable thirst for power and avarice could be contained by setting up checks and balances. Our own inherent flaws could be used to hold things in a fragile balance through a process of transparent accountability. This would give the governed a chance to not becoming yet another nation ruled through oppression. It was brilliant. It has mostly worked. To keep it, we have had to fight to keep on many fronts, including military combat. This weekend, we honor those who were called on to protect our fragile form of self-governance with their very lives.

It is a time to reflect on those who ended up giving everything for this nation. I am a civilian. I never served. I am also a huge reader of military history. Part of why this facet of history is so fascinating to me is that war reflects both the very best and the very worst of what we are capable of as humans. If you want to understand what we are, study war and see these themes of heroism and depravity play out in eerily similar ways over the millennia. The very worst and the very best of who and what we are can be understood by studying war and how we get into (and out of) them.

It is in the context of being and imperfect nation, striving to do better and to be better that we need to honor and reflect on those who lost their lives for us. They gave us this grand experiment in self-governance that we inherited. It is our turn at the bat. Do we deliver this thing to the next generation, or do we let in sink into the swamp? I personally strive for the former and reject the latter. One way we can keep the responsibility we have to the next generation is to pause and consider what those who came before us gave us so we could sit here and consider what we do next.

I have had a lot of impactful experiences over the course of my life. One of the most meaningful to me was a vacation to Normandy France. I was able to make in July 2000 with the Miller clan, it was a wonderful trip, including a visit to Mont Saint Michael, which I had dreamed of seeing since early childhood. But the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach is what has remained etched into my memory. I wish every American could stand at the edge of that cemetery, with the graves of young soldiers stretching out behind them and look out at the flat beach stretching out forever in front and consider those who ran up that beach facing a wall of lead cutting them down as D-DAY unfolded to fight oppression. That is what this weekend is about.

The average age of a US soldiers who charged those five beaches was 20 years old. The battle of Elsenborn Ridge , which was part of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 alone cost 5,000 US soldiers deaths. Casualties in the Civil war, estimated at between 620,000 and 750,000 cost more American lives than all other military conflicts combined, including WWII. We recently concluded the longest military action in US history, fought by an entirely volunteer military, which contained many men and women who fought multiple actions over many years. Some never came home. All these men and women deserve our deepest appreciation.

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. We will eat hot dogs and cheeseburgers. We will relax. We will spend time with loved ones. We will attend parades in honor of the ultimate price that so many Americans paid for us to experience these simple joys of life. They gave us the privilege to sit here with the choice of what we do to preserve or allow our nation to decay during the measure of our time. I am grateful this Memorial Day weekend for those who gave us this choice today. We do not live in tyranny; they preserved the option of self-governance for us. What will we do next?

As I sit here approaching 60, I am grateful to all those men and women who lost their lives sustaining this grand experiment in self-governance up to now. I think that the best way we can honor the price that paid is to figure out how to preserve what they gave us through to the next generation. I am grateful I have this choice today because it was provided to me because of those who fought for this nation. I am grateful for them and what they did for us.

What are you grateful for today?

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