I sit down each Memorial Day at my keyboard and attempt to put some words together to convey the depth of gratitude I have for those American servicemen and women from each generation who rose to this nation’s call for valor, and in answering that call paid off their pledge with the most valuable thing they had to give – their lives.
My debt is a debt of respect and honor to each of these who made the ultimate sacrifice for generations after that they would never know. It is a debt I can never repay. But I won’t let that stop me from doing what I can do – honor the memory of their sacrifices… support and pray for their families…and fight to preserve the principals for which they fought and died. This is the goal of every memorial and monument erected to their memory.
This weekend, many of those monuments have been under assault. In Venice, California, a Vietnam War memorial was desecrated with spray paint. This is not just another act of neighborhood vandalism, but rather a resounding declaration that the concept of honor is dead to some, and the threat of wanton disrespect rules the streets. The Venice monument is comprised of a beautiful color mural of the various soldiers from each branch, surrounded by a stark black wall with the names of those who perished painted in white relief. In essence, this monument is not only defaced. It is ruined.
In Anniston, Alabama, hundreds of American flags placed on the graves of veterans have twice been ripped from their places and stolen in the last month. Left behind were the broken sticks the flags were mounted on. That, and an almost palpable stench of contempt.
Near Seattle, Washington, a monument garden in the shape of a Purple Heart medal constructed to honor those injured in combat was defaced when the purple sage plants that made up its heart-shaped center were yanked from the ground, and tossed aside this week. Nobody was hurt, but much more than a bunch of plants was damaged.
In Henderson, Kentucky, a Memorial Day display of 160 wooden crosses bearing the names of American veterans who died dating back to the Revolutionary War was mowed down by a 27-year-old driver prior to daylight. A monument called Freedom Rock constructed by another community to honor veterans was defaced this week. The list goes on.
Honor and respect have become the newest casualties of our culture war. We are not only inundated with new members of our communities from other countries who have no connection or appreciation for our fallen heroes because they aren’t from here, but on the home front our own newer generations have been indoctrinated in the culture of self-indulgence and self-worship. They know nothing of the concept of self-sacrifice, a concept at the heart of every true soldier, sailor or airman who willingly goes into harm’s way to protect this nation’s freedoms…including the freedom to be an ass and besmirch the valor of others.
The honor due to our fallen veterans is timeless, as long as we elect to preserve it and remember it. It defines the greatest traits we share as Americans and even as people. When we fail to do that, we have lost our most precious national treasure.
So, this year as I seek to pay homage to those I have never met but love and honor through remembering their sacrifices to secure my comfort and freedom, I have a question and a promise for those soulless bastards who wantonly desecrate these reminders of what is greatest about our country. The question is, ‘When you murder honor and respect, what value replaces it?’ The promise is this – if I find you doing it in my community, YOU will be desecrated and dishonored.
Peace to all who have fallen in service to this nation. Our gratitude will never die.
-Nathan Clark, Memorial Day 2016
Image: Screen Grab; http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2016/05/27/vandals-deface-vietnam-war-memorial-in-venice/