Basilone was a leader of men. He inspired those around him to dig a little deeper and find courage that they didn’t think they had. The tattoo on Basilone’s forearm read, “Death before Dishonor!" He truly led by example.
There is no part of me that wishes my son to die the hero’s death of John Basilone. However, if my son lives his life with as much courage and integrity as “Manila John” did, he will be quite a man.
On July Fourth we celebrate the idea that all men should live free. Alas, that freedom is purchased at a price and from time to time an invoice will arrive marked, “payable on demand.” The price is steep: Fathers will lose boys with whom they used to play catch; mothers will lose children they suckled at their breast. But what choice is there?
It is the nature of men that some will seek to exploit others; the strong will attempt to enslave the weak, and the evil will seek to infect the good. Freedom requires that some among us man the towers in order to protect the weak, defend the good, and secure the blessings of liberty.
Of course, peace is always preferable to war, but peace is secured through strength not through capitulation. Winston Churchill said: "There is no virtue in a tame acquiescence in evil. To protest against cruelty and wrong, and to strive to end them, is the mark of a man."
Thank God for men like John Basilone and the thousands of others that have given their lives and bodies fighting for what is right. Thank God as well for the many thousands of parents who looked into the eyes of their children and wished them God’s speed.
Ultimately, my son may choose to follow another path. However, if time does not deter him and he chooses to become a Marine, I will be a proud father. Yes, I will worry and I will pray that no harm comes to him. I will also stick out my chest, confident that he is putting his life on the line in service of something greater than himself.