Americans gather on the Fourth of July to read the Declaration of Independence. Many of us gather at Christmas to read from Luke the story of Jesus’ birth.
On Memorial Day, Americans should gather to read the Bill of Rights, with particular emphasis on the Second Amendment.
Before “Decoration Day” officially became “Memorial Day” by an act of Congress in 1968, the holiday was a time of solemn remembrance of brave warriors who fought and died in the service of our country.
Good wars, bad wars — that was never the point. It was never a celebration of the country or governments or any particular war. Certainly, it was never a celebration of the politicians who run the government and decide on such wars.
It was always and forever a celebration of the individual warriors who fought in those wars and their individual sacrifice. Back before it was Memorial Day, widows and orphans and grandchildren would fill the cemeteries to decorate the graves of the men who had died.
When you stop and really think about it, you begin to wonder if we living today are even worthy to celebrate the sacrifice of such great men.
Americans first began observing Decoration Day in the years after the Civil War when families and entire towns in both the North and the South trudged through the incalculable loss and grief and death, desperately clutching to their hearts the memory of the more than 600,000 brave men who sacrificed their lives for others in a cause larger than themselves.
Today, a century and a half later, there are some among us who choose to judge the causes in which those men died. These privileged and ignorant ingrates among us choose to denigrate the sacrifice of millions and tear down the memorials that were erected to brave warriors by stricken and impoverished survivors.
Indeed, we are unworthy. Abraham Lincoln would weep.
If we are to preserve our country, we must redouble our efforts to venerate the individual warriors who came before us. We must drive out the petty tyrants who would topple our monuments to such individual sacrifice.
Like Memorial Day, our Bill of Rights is a monument to the American individual. It is a celebration of the individual over government in America. No such right more dramatically defines our freedom — and the terrifying responsibility that comes with it — than the Second Amendment.
Sadly, we were reminded of this last week when a crazed lunatic unfit for freedom slaughtered 19 children in an elementary school. For more than an hour, government agencies mobilized outside the elementary school, wringing their hands and fretting over the dangerous threat rampaging inside the building among defenseless children.
Where government failed, an individual American citizen named Jacob Albarado acted. Mr. Albarado is an off-duty Border Patrol agent. More important, he is the father of a little girl trapped inside the school.
Mr. Albarado heard about the massacre as he sat down in a barber’s chair for a haircut. He borrowed a shotgun and rode to the sound of gunfire.
As government was paralyzed by fear and bureaucracy, Mr. Albarado — the individual, the father — raced to sacrifice everything.
“I did what I was trained to do,” he said later, with modesty.
He could have been killed. Someone innocent could have gotten hurt.
But something had to be done. Bravery was required. Action essential.
In 1962, Gen. Douglas MacArthur spoke to West Point cadets at the United States Military Academy about this singular, individual bravery and sacrifice.
“Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men’s minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation’s war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle,” he told them.
“The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.”
Indeed, our freedoms are not guarded by frail, soft “social warriors” who tear down monuments and make so much clanging noise today without a hint of individual bravery.
At the end of the day, the Beaches of Normandy are stormed only by brave men like Mr. Albarado. And all those men whose graves across America are decorated today. And wept over.
It is our duty as Americans to venerate brave men and live lives worthy of their sacrifice.
• Charles Hurt is the opinion editor at The Washington Times.
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