I recently had the honor of listening to Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, USA (retired) Commander of the Joint Task Force Katrina and Global Preparedness Expert, speak at a conference this past week. His words were quite appropriate during the advent of Memorial Day, a holiday commemorating those who have served and do serve in the United States Military.
The British soldiers fought for the king. Your forefathers fought for freedom.”
General Honoré said some things that I had to jot down; things that I truly appreciated because I don’t see myself as living in a truly free society that affords everyone the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and progress to the next lesson. Many young people now have criminal records for things that our parents did—hell, our parents did a lot worse—things that will continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives as they try to find employment, afford insurance, and blend into communities. The United States may have started becoming a country where many could prosper, but it is now digressing to the same world we’ve always had—a world that not only highlights what it doesn’t like about you, but tears you apart and punishes you for not being one with that world, for not agreeing with that world, for doing what humans do—making mistakes.
We have different kinds of witch hunts in this 21st Century: a Hispanic man has been the target of other minorities who didn’t view him as a minority, but as just another white man who committed a racist crime; teenagers are now added to the sex offenders list because they took pictures of themselves with cell phones, something that the law considers to be “kiddy porn”—this is an excellent example of a law that has branched out like a cancrine tumor well beyond its original intent of protecting minors from adult predators to something that now harms the very people it was meant to protect.
It reminds me of Les Misérables: Jean Valjean spent 20 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread because his disadvantaged family had no food to eat. When he was released from prison, he had a change of heart at the hand of the bishop of Digne, and successfully concealed his identity to become a rich man who shared his wealth with the less fortunate. He came under suspicion, and Javert, a police inspector who recognized Valjean from prison, relentlessly pursued Valjean because he believed that a lawbreaker was a lawbreaker. When I read the book, it reminded me of how felons are treated today, even though, I think it is safe to say, most felons are non-violent criminals. They were accused of smoking pot or of being in the same car as someone who possessed drugs. Many of them cannot find employment when they leave prison, and while they try to be better people and work for a living, that opportunity is rare and they cannot find any alternative to crime for putting food on their tables; and thus, a horrible cycle continues.
Isn’t this the world from which our forefathers fought to free themselves?
To be born free is an accident.
Unfortunately, to be born free in a modern society that has seen no real oppression—partly because today’s younger generation really has no idea how good they have it because they pay no attention to the world around them and have no idea what happened to Russia and Europe in the 20th Century—is to be born as one who sees the government as no threat to liberty. To add, they don’t seem to understand that removing others’ liberties is not the solution to obtaining their own.
An important observation I’ve made about our society is that liberties are never added to the list. Instead, one group obtains “liberties” while another group loses their liberty. As women rightly gained equality, men’s “rights” were unjustly trampled upon. As black men [and women] justly gained the right to work and play in the same places as whites, the white man became the lesser option in employment, even when he was much more qualified for the job. Now, as atheists seek the right to be treated fairly in spite of not believing, they are openly attacking religious groups with the intention of suppressing their freedom of expression. Liberty is never truly obtained when one group oppresses another. For true liberty, we must obtain liberty while obtaining that which already was.
To live free is a privilege; a privilege paid for by previous generations.
It pisses me off when people say, “Today’s military didn’t fight for my freedom.” That’s pure bullshit. Without the men and women who serve in today’s military, we wouldn’t have a well-trained, highly respected military that, above all, serves as a deterrent to those who would otherwise march on our shores, cut apart our men, rape our women, burn down our homes, and God only knows what. “The best offense is a good defense.” We are damn fortunate that our current military members preserve our freedom.
To die free is a responsibility.
Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who would gladly sell their rights to the government in exchange for services. What they do not know is that, like all things, there is a threshold at which point the government will have enough power to take away those services and not be accountable to citizens’ “rights.”
Without Memorial Day, we wouldn’t have a Fourth of July.
Who is the highest ranking general in the United States? This is a fun piece of trivia that you will probably get wrong. By law, General George Washington is the general above all generals. Any man of any Constitutional interpretation can become President of the United States, but no one will ever achieve the honor that was earned by General Washington, a man who knew firsthand the price of freedom. Because he and others served, we now celebrate the birth of our country: the Fourth of July.
Personally, I see no government programs or handouts as even coming close to the price of freedom paid by the troops led by General Washington, or those who fought in the First and Second World Wars, those who died or suffered in Vietnam, or those who “came back different” from this most recent war effort. The next time you think about giving up your privacy or rights in exchange for government services, think of the price paid by men and women who looked true oppression directly in the eye. They’ve seen the devil in no way that those who never served will ever have to.
A veteran is someone who wrote a blank check, payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including his life. The currency of freedom is the blood, sweat and tears of a nation’s people.
—Gene Castagnetti, director of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Happy Memorial Day. Honor those who served.