Thursday, October 28, 2004
Reflections from the National Mall
This past Monday I took the opportunity to visit the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC. I've been meaning to do it for a long time, but its taken until now to get myself over the Potomac River with time to sightsee.
For those of you who haven't had the chance to actually see the memorial, I highly recommend you take the time to make the pilgrimage. Its well worth it.
The memorial sits in the shadows of both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It memorializes both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres of that war. Inscribed along the walls are notable quotations from Eisenhower, MacArthur, Roosevelt, and others. It is truly a sight to behold.
Centered between the Atlantic and Pacific Arches is a fountain in front of which is a field of 400 Gold Stars. Each star symbolizes 1,000 people who made the journey across the seas to defend freedom and never got a chance to make the trip home. Atop the star field is the emblazoned words:
Here We Mark The Price of Freedom.
I pondered on this for a few minutes. So many people. Such carnage. Truly, as Eisenhower said, we shall not see their like again. I stand in awe of the people behind those stars. They pressed forward, onward, and upward in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and extremely high casualties. To put the current conflict in context, the Global War on Terror would rate about 1.5 stars - 4.5 if you add the casualties of September 11, 2001. I thought about this comparison and wondered what the D-Day, Iwo Jima, and Battle of the Bulge commanders would have given to have lost just 1,000 men.
I have also often wondered what drove these men up the beaches of so many far off places. The answer to my question came as I heard my 18 month old daughter babbling as she bobbled along (as only a toddler can) the stone floor of the memorial towards me. As I picked her up and tossed her in the air the thought came to me that this was what drove them to victory. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines memorialized by the star field will never have a chance to toss their daughters in the air. What drove them to do their duty was the knowledge that guys like me would have the chances they would never get.
So, on November 2nd, let the word go forth from this time and place that the Torch of Liberty still burns brightly (despite the best efforts of the Breck Girl) and has been taken up by a new and more responsible generation of Americans. We choose to do these things, undertake these missions, and fulfill this destiny not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Because the Peacemakers of the United States Armed Forces know that by shedding some of their blood here and now, future generations may be spared from adding untold gallons in later years. We shall do that which we know to be right, and by reliance on the Almighty and America's righteous might we shall see ourselves, our country, and freedom clear to absolute victory - So Help us God.
Here endeth the lesson.