I watched the HBO documentary "Baghdad ER," not only to see whether it lived down to the expectations of some conservatives who claimed, without seeing it, that the film would be an anti-war propaganda screed; I also wanted to be reminded of the cost of freedom.
The program was "MASH" without as much humor, though there was humor amidst the blood, pain, death and grief. The documentary shows the reality of war. Viewers can read into it whatever they wish, but I found it authentic and compelling. What continues to amaze is how many of the wounded men and women did not want to leave Iraq, preferring to rejoin their units as soon as possible.
Chaplains prayed with the wounded and for the dead. If the ACLU objects, someone should tell them to shut up.
We are told that most people don't have any relatives in today's all-volunteer military, or know anyone who does. That is too bad, because such people are missing out on the privilege of knowing a group of young men and women whose commitment to duty, honor and country is refreshing in a self-centered universe.
Memorial Day honors those who took up arms in the defense of freedom and the common values shared by free people. These men and women lost their lives so that we (and others) could maintain our freedom. Unless you know them, it is difficult to understand their reasons for leaving behind comfort and loved ones to give their lives so that others might live in freedom.
Eighteen months ago, I wrote about a remarkable young man who I have known since his birth. Specialist Daniel Calvin Dobson of Grand Rapids, Mich., joined the National Guard with the intention of going to Iraq. He served and he came home. Next week, he leaves for a second tour. He tells me the Army has a policy that anyone who has already served in Iraq is not required to go back should his unit be recalled. Daniel volunteered to go back.
In e-mail to his friends, he asks three things: "First, do not lose hope in the face of negative reporting. We are doing good work in Iraq and God is with us. Second, pray for those of us who have chosen to serve our nation and the liberties espoused by our Constitution. Third, I ask that you never take advantage of the liberties guaranteed by the shedding of free blood, never take for granted the freedoms granted by our Constitution. For those liberties would be merely ink on paper were it not for the sacrifice of generations of Americans who heard the call of duty and responded heart, mind and soul with 'Yes, I will.'"
In a new book, "Home of the Brave: Honoring the Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror," the late Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and presidential speechwriter and scholar Wynton C. Hall write of such men: "Every morning, in cities all across the world, 2.4 million Americans wake up, put on a uniform, kiss their loved ones goodbye, and head out the door to defend freedom. In exchange, they ask for nothing: not wealth, not power, not celebrity. . To them, protecting America is a privilege, an honor, a solemn duty that has been passed like a torch from their parents and grandparents before them.
"As First Sergeant Justin LeHew told us, 'It's all the crosses in Arlington Cemetery. It's all those GIs who died over there with my dad on Omaha Beach. You want your generation to do America justice like that one did. 'And they did."
They did, indeed. And they still are doing America justice and doing America proud.
Find a veteran this Memorial Day weekend and say, "thank you for my freedom." Visit a military cemetery and thank God someone was willing to die so you and I might live in freedom. And support those, like my friend Daniel Dobson, who for the second time is about to make an installment payment toward the price free people must pay in order that we might continue to enjoy liberty.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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