Like any birth, our nation was born in blood. The founding fathers had to fight the armed might of the British Empire to earn their freedom and establish this nation. From that day to now, brave people have stood between danger and America, often purchasing with their bodies and their very lives the continued freedom of this nation.

On this day we remember those men and women who have fallen in the defense of the United States of America. They sacrificed all they had that we might be free. Let us live in such a way that their sacrifice was not in vain.

Today you may see some old man wearing buttons, badges and a funny hat, and he may offer you a small plastic poppy flower. That man is a veteran. Shake his hand and thank him for his service. You are a free American because of his service and the service of thousands of brave men and women like him. Then buy that poppy from him and wear it with pride. On this Memorial Day, we remember those who are not around to barbecue and take the day off work; instead they lie in poppy-strewn fields.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, Canadian Army
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

Today is Memorial Day, the day set aside to remember those who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Since the birth of our nation in armed conflict and again in each generation, brave men and women have stood “Between their loved home and the war’s desolation” to keep our nation and its people free. So as you enjoy your vacation from school or work, your barbeques, or your fun times today, remember that you are free to do so because millions of American men and women served in the armed forces to keep our nation free, and too many of them gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving.

Don’t mistake this day for Veterans Day, which honors all veterans, not just those who died. But nothing says you can’t (or shouldn’t) thank any member of the military you encounter today.

Here are several good Memorial Day links well worth visiting:

Michelle Malkin

Gateway Pundit

Hot Air

Below is a wonderful National Geographic special about Arlington National Cemetery hosted on Hulu titled “Arlington: Field of Honor”.

And to finish off this post and to list out their sacrifice, here is a table taken from the Wikipedia article on American casualties of war. I have edited the list to enumerate only the dead, not the wounded.

War or conflict Date Deaths
combat other total
American Revolutionary War 1775–1783 8,000 17,000 25,000
Quasi-War 1798–1800 20 20
Barbary Wars 1801–1815 35 35
Other actions against pirates 1800–1900 10 10
Northwest Indian War 1785–1795 1221+
War of 1812 1812–1815 2,260 ~17,000 ~20,000
First Seminole War 1817–1818 30 30
Black Hawk War 1832 60+
Second Seminole War 1835–1842 328 ~1,500
Mexican–American War 1846–1848 1,733 11,550 13,283
Third Seminole War 1855-1858 26 26
Civil War: total 1861–1865 212,938 ~625,000
Union 140,414 224,097 364,511
Confederate 72,524 ~260,000
Indian Wars 1865–1898 919
Korean expedition 1871 3 3
Spanish–American War 1898 385 2,061 2,446
Philippine–American War 1898–1913 1,020 3,176 4,196
Boxer Rebellion 1900–1901 37 37
Mexican Revolution 1914–1919 35+
Occupation of Haiti 1915–1934 146
World War I 1917–1918 53,402 63,114 116,516
Northern Russian Expedition 1918-1920 424
American Expeditionary Force Siberia 1918-1920 189
China 1918; 1921; 1926-1927; 1930; 1937 5
US occupation of Nicaragua 1927-1933 48
World War II 1941–1945 291,557 113,842 405,399
China {Cold War} 1945-1947 13
Berlin Blockade 1948-1949 31
Korean War 1950–1953 30,880 2806 36,516
Russia {Cold War} 1950-1955 32
China {Cold War} 1956 16
Bay of Pigs Invasion 1961 4
Vietnam War 1957–1973 47,424 10,785 58209
Invasion of Dominican Republic 1965-1966 13
El Salvador Civil War 1980–1992 9 20
Beirut deployment 1982–1984 256 266
Persian Gulf escorts 1987–1988 39 0 39
Invasion of Grenada 1983 18 1 19
Invasion of Panama 1989 23 40
Gulf War 1990–1991 148 151 299
Somalia 1992–1993 29 14 43
Haiti 1994–1995 1 4
Bosnia-Herzegovina 1995-2004 1 12
Kosovo 1999 1 19 20
Afghanistan 2001–present 463 214 677
Iraq War 2003–present 3,760 540 4,300

Woohoo! It’s Memorial Day — a three-day weekend for barbecues, pizzas, playing games, and avoiding mowing the lawn. But while you are enjoying this time, stop and remember those Americans who have fallen in military service. It is their sacrifice that has preserved us as a nation and made this day of shopping and drinking possible.

And yet we ask very little for those who fall. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked how he felt as a representative of a country seen by many as the Satan of contemporary politics:

So, far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people.

And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, “Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us”? No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are. So, far from being the Satan, I think we are the protector of a universal value system that more and more people are recognizing as the correct value system: democracy, economic freedom, the individual rights of men and women to pursue their own destiny. That’s what we stand for, and that’s what we try to help other countries achieve as well. [emphasis mine - CM]

Bill Whittle echoes this characteristic of America: our ability to fight, conquer, and then leave as seen at the end of World War II:

History has never, and will never, record a time when such unchallenged power existed in the hands of a nation, nor of a time when opposing forces were so weak and in such a state of disarray and abject surrender.

And these feared and ruthless Americans, a people who had incinerated cities in Europe and Japan and whose ferocity and tenacity on island jungles and French beaches had brought fanatical warrior cultures to their knees – what did these new conquerors of the world do?

They went home is what they did. They did pause for a few years to rebuild the nations sworn to their destruction and the murder of their people. They carbon-copied their own system of government and enforced it on their most bitterly hated enemy, a people who have since given so much back to the world as a result of this generosity. They left troops in and sent huge sums of money to Europe to rebuild what they all knew would eventually become trading partners, but also determined competitors. Then they sent huge steel blades through their hard-earned fleets of ships and airplanes and came home to get on with their lives in peace and quiet. [emphasis Bill's - CM]

Remember this day those who have fallen in our service, and thank anyone you see in uniform, for they are putting their lives on the line for your freedom and peace.

Memorial Day 2007

Memorial Day 2006

For this Memorial Day, the talent of Cox and Forkum gave us the above image, and Victor Davis Hanson wrote the following:

Looking Back at Iraq

A war to be proud of.

There may be a lot to regret about the past policy of the United States in the Middle East, but the removal of Saddam Hussein and the effort to birth democracy in his place is surely not one of them. And we should remember that this Memorial Day.

Whatever our righteous anger at Khomeinist Iran, it was wrong, well aside from the arms-for-hostages scandal, to provide even a modicum of aid to Saddam Hussein, the great butcher of his own, during the Iran-Iraq war.

Inviting the fascist Baathist government of Syria into the allied coalition of the first Gulf War meant that we more or less legitimized the Assad regime’s take-over of Lebanon, with disastrous results for its people.

It may have been strategically in error not to have taken out Saddam in 1991, but it was morally wrong to have then encouraged Shiites and Kurds to rise up — while watching idly as Saddam’s reprieved planes and helicopters slaughtered them in the thousands.

A decade of appeasement of Islamic terrorism, with retaliations after the serial attacks — from the first World Trade Center bombing to Khobar Towers and the USS Cole — never exceeding the occasional cruise missile or stern televised lecture, made September 11 inevitable.

A decade was wasted in subsidizing Yasser Arafat on the pretense that he was something other than a mendacious thug.

I cite these few examples of the now nostalgic past, because it is common to see Iraq written off by the architects of these past failures as the “worst” policy decision in our history, a “quagmire” and a “disaster.” Realists, more worried about Iran and the ongoing cost in our blood and treasure in Iraq, insist that toppling Saddam was a terrible waste of resources. Leftists see the Iraq war as part of an amoral imperialism; often their talking points weirdly end up rehashed in bin Laden’s communiqués and Dr. Zawahiri’s rants.

But what did 2,400 brave and now deceased Americans really sacrifice for in Iraq, along with thousands more who were wounded? And what were billions in treasure spent on? And what about the hundreds of collective years of service offered by our soldiers? What exactly did intrepid officers in the news like a Gen. Petreus, or Col. McMaster, or Lt. Col Kurilla fight for?

First, there is no longer a mass murderer atop one of the oil-richest states in the world. Imagine what Iraq would now look like with $70 a barrel oil, a $50 billion unchecked and ongoing Oil-for-Food U.N. scandal, the 15th year of no-fly zones, a punitative U.N. embargo on the Iraqi people — all perverted by Russian arms sales, European oil concessions, and frenzied Chinese efforts to get energy contracts from Saddam.

The Kurds would remain in perpetual danger. The Shiites would simply be harvested yearly, in quiet, by Saddam’s police state. The Marsh Arabs would by now have been forgotten in their toxic dust-blown desert. Perhaps Saddam would have upped his cash pay-outs for homicide bombers on the West Bank.

Mohammar Khaddafi would be starting up his centrifuges and adding to his chemical weapons depots. Syria would still be in Lebanon. Washington would probably have ceased pressuring Egypt and the Gulf States to enact reform. Dr. Khan’s nuclear mail-order house would be in high gear. We would still be hearing of a “militant wing” of Hamas, rather than watching a democratically elected terrorist clique reveal its true creed to the world.

But just as importantly, what did these rare Americans not fight for? Oil, for one thing. The price skyrocketed after they went in. The secret deals with Russia and France ended. The U.N. petroleum perfidy stopped. The Iraqis, and the Iraqis alone — not Saddam, the French, the Russians, or the U.N. — now adjudicate how much of their natural resources they will sell, and to whom.

Our soldiers fought for the chance of a democracy; that fact is uncontestable. Before they came to Iraq, there was a fascist dictatorship. Now, after three elections, there is an indigenous democratic government for the first time in the history of the Middle East. True, thousands of Iraqis have died publicly in the resulting sectarian mess; but thousands were dying silently each year under Saddam — with no hope that their sacrifice would ever result in the first steps that we have already long passed.

Our soldiers also removed a great threat to the United States. Again, the crisis brewing over Iran reminds us of what Iraq would have reemerged as. Like Iran, Saddam reaped petroprofits, sponsored terror, and sought weapons of mass destruction. But unlike Iran, he had already attacked four of his neighbors, gassed thousands of his own, and violated every agreement he had ever signed. There would have been no nascent new democracy in Iran that might some day have undermined Saddam, and, again unlike Iran, no internal dissident movement that might have come to power through a revolution or peaceful evolution.

No, Saddam’s police state was wounded, but would have recovered, given high oil prices, Chinese and Russian perfidy, and Western exhaustion with enforcement of U.N. sanctions. Moreover, the American military took the war against radical Islam right to its heart in the ancient caliphate. It has not only killed thousands of jihadists, but dismantled the hierarchy of al Qaeda and its networks, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. Critics say that we “took our eye off the ball” by going to Iraq and purportedly leaving bin Laden alone in the Hindu Kush. But more likely, al Qaeda took its eye off the American homeland as the promised theater of operations once American ground troops began dealing with Islamic terrorists in Iraq. As we near five years after September 11, note how less common becomes the expression “not if, but when” concerning the next anticipated terror attack in the U.S.

Some believe that the odyssey of jihadists to Iraq means we created terrorists, but again, it is far more likely, as al Qaeda communiqués attest, that we drew those with such propensities into Iraq. Once there, they have finally shown the world that they hate democracy, but love to kill and behead — and that has brought a great deal of moral clarity to the struggle. After Iraq, the reputation of bin Laden and radical Islam has not been enhanced as alleged, but has plummeted. For all the propaganda on al Jazeera, the chattering classes in the Arab coffeehouses still watch Americans fighting to give Arabs the vote, and radical Islamists in turn beheading men and women to stop it.

If many in the Middle East once thought it was cute that 19 killers could burn a 20-acre hole in Manhattan, I am not sure what they think of Americans now in their backyard not living to die, but willing to die so that other Arabs might live freely.

All of our achievements are hard to see right now. The Iraqis are torn by sectarianism, and are not yet willing to show gratitude to America for saving them from Saddam and pledging its youth and billions to give them something better. We are nearing the third national election of the war, and Iraq has become so politicized that our efforts are now beyond caricature. An archivist is needed to remind the American people of the record of all the loud politicians and the national pundits who once were on record in support of the war.

Europeans have demonized our efforts — but not so much lately, as pacifist Europe sits on its simmering volcano of Islamic fundamentalism and unassimilated Muslim immigrants. Our own Left has tossed out “no blood for oil” — that is, until the sky-rocketing prices, the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal, and a new autonomous Iraqi oil ministry cooled that rhetoric. Halliburton is also now not so commonly alleged as the real casus belli, when few contractors of any sort wish to rush into Iraq to profit.

“Bush lied, thousands died” grows stale when the WMD threat was reiterated by Arabs, the U.N., and the Europeans. The “too few troops” debate is not the sort that characterizes imperialism, especially when no American proconsul argues that we must permanently stay in large numbers in Iraq. The new Iraqi-elected president, not Donald Rumsfeld, is more likely to be seen on television, insisting that Americans remain longer.

A geography more uninviting for our soldiers than Iraq cannot be imagined — 7,000 miles away, surrounded by Baathist Syria, Wahhabist Saudi Arabia, and theocratic Iran. The harsh landscape rivals the worst of past battlefields — blazing temperatures, wind, and dust. The host culture that our soldiers faced was Orwellian — a society terrorized by a mass murderer for 30 years, who ruled by alternately promising Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish collaborationists that cooperation meant only that fewer of their own would die.

The timing was equally awful — in an era of easy anti-Americanism in Europe, and endemic ingratitude in the Muslim world that asks nothing of itself, everything of us, and blissfully forgets the thousands of Muslims saved by Americans in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Somalia, and the billions more lavished on Jordanians, Palestinians, and Egyptians.

And here at home? There are few Ernie Pyles in Iraq to record the heroism of our soldiers; no John Fords to film their valor — but legions to write ad nauseam of Abu Ghraib, and to make up stories of flushed Korans and Americans terrorizing Iraqi women and children.

Yet here we are with an elected government in place, an Iraqi security force growing, and an autocratic Middle East dealing with the aftershocks of the democratic concussion unleashed by American soldiers in Iraq.

Reading about Gettysburg, Okinawa, Choisun, Hue, and Mogadishu is often to wonder how such soldiers did what they did. Yet never has America asked its youth to fight under such a cultural, political, and tactical paradox as in Iraq, as bizarre a mission as it is lethal. And never has the American military — especially the U.S. Army and Marines — in this, the supposedly most cynical and affluent age of our nation, performed so well.

We should remember the achievement this Memorial Day of those in the field who alone crushed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, stayed on to offer a new alternative other than autocracy and theocracy, and kept a targeted United States safe from attack for over four years.