- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2003

We’re celebrating Memorial Day for the 32nd time since it was officially made a federal holiday in 1971. Considering what we celebrate when we mark this event, it goes without saying that no one year is ever more important than another. Each time we commemorate those who gave their all in support of this great country and what we hold dear, we remember a lot of sadness and pain. Every year’s celebration is a hurt; freedom’s toll is a heavy burden.

But this year, Memorial Day is juxtaposed against the recent liberation of Iraq. As we bring to mind the men and women who died in that liberation, I’m unable to shed the newsprint, TV images and radio commentary given to so many who opined that what this country did was wrong, illegitimate or immoral.

Never mind that we didn’t start this war, we were justly replying to the cowards who began it in Manhattan some 20 months earlier, a war the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Never mind that the very people who we liberated were the very ones the Butcher of Baghdad was oppressing since 1979. We know this. It was they who smiled and waved and who are today thanking us for their one, true shot at freedom and life without fear.

I’m sorry, but this old Marine leatherneck has grown weary of the same tired formula that since Vietnam has been de rigueur for every bleeding-heart liberal whenever our fighting forces actually do what they were trained to do. They rant. They paint their placards and parade around our cities. They block traffic and chant and do whatever they can to be noticed. They’ve tainted my Memorial Day. And they make me ill.

But Martin, you say, isn’t this just free speech? Don’t they have the right?

Yes, they have the right. It’s a right accorded by the very country they deride, by the very military that defends that country and provides those rights. But no, it is not a free speech issue. Frankly, it’s more about hate.

I believe when the Jane Fondas and Jeanine Garafalos and the Tim Robbinses and Michael Moores and Susan Sarandons and Natalie Maineses and Harrison Fords and Sean Penns and Alec Baldwins and Ed Asners open their pie holes to spit venom and vitriol against our leaders and our country’s military callings, they’re not just practicing free speech, they’re actually — and directly — giving aid and succor to the very enemy our forces are willing to give their all for.

This isn’t a matter of free speech. And it isn’t about careful, reasoned dissent, as any among us may have on matters of the day. No, this is more about the palpable dislike — disdain would not be too strong a word — disdain for our country. Disdain for its leadership in world affairs. Disdain for what the red, white and blue stands for. Disdain for our God-given blessings. And most assuredly, disdain for President Bush. Let’s face it; they’ve never gotten over Florida, and their disdain mounts.

Never mind that it is misdirected. You see, Mr. Bush was legally elected according to the Constitution with a majority of the Electoral College vote. Never mind that as they vent their spleens, not only do they discredit themselves but they discredit the very ones who’ve answered their country’s call that ultimately allows them to exercise their so-called free speech, their selected victimhood. How ironic. How sad. And what a striking disconnect for what we mark on this holiday.

Free speech is something we all celebrate, but nothing we should take for granted. And on this Memorial Day, the 60 Plus Association, on behalf of veterans of many wars, with a fast-growing base of support from nearly 4.5 million seniors, will not take it for granted.

We call on patriotic Americans everywhere to stop on this Memorial Day, stop whatever you’re doing if only for a few short seconds, and remember those who gave their very selves for the gift of America, the gift of our many liberties, and, yes, the privilege of free speech.

This great land and our fighting heroes deserve your patriotic reflection, especially this Memorial Day 2003.

James L. Martin is president of the 60 Plus Association.


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