This Memorial Day is a day worth particular remembrance.
Unlike the Obama Administration, President Donald Trump’s administration does not run from honoring the service, present and past, of our military. We really cannot appreciate their efforts on behalf of this great country. They have fought, they have stood their ground, they have taken on the enemy. Instead of wasting time and energy on the press, Trump greeted Army troops all with an enthusiastic roll of “USA! USA!”
The deeds of our armed men and women must never be forgotten. There is no worse fate for great deeds than “L’oubli,” a French term which speaks of more than misplacing one’s keys or forgetting your anniversary. Events of historic importance can become whitewashed, watered down, misconstrued, or gently overlooked.
This philosophical forgetting can speak of something not to be discussed, and everyone understands why. Following years of heated civil war, the ancient Athenians agreed to “forget” the conflict and the reasons behind it. The most profound irony in this historic remembrance? The Athenians would celebrate their decision to forget the massive, destructive civil war following their demoralizing defeat to the rugged Spartans. Read more about in Remembering Defeat.
How fortunate for us Americans that our country’s victories far outweigh the losses in our legacied history. We should be so proud, and recognize how blessed we are, that the United States has enjoyed a long list of international victories for a greater cause, too. Of course we celebrate the great works, deeds, and power of the United States Armed Forces on Memorial Day. From the War of Independence to the War Between the States, from World War II to Operation Desert Storm, Americans have stepped in to fight for more than land or prestige. American forces have fought for liberty. They fought to ensure that the Judeo-Christian ideals of natural law and divine rights for all mankind remain extant and firm.
So, here is the best that I can do to remember the great service of my fathers.
My father, Arthur Caldwell Schaper, served in Vietnam with the Sea Bees. They built the airports, the runways, all the facilities for the troops and the generals to mount the attack. Was Vietnam a failure? Perhaps in the short-term, but the fall of the Berlin Wall and the stunning demise of militarized communism signaled that in the long-run, the United States of America would stand on the right side of history, because they stood for the right on principle. My grandfather, Arthur Durand Schaper, served in the US Navy, fighting in the Asian theater. Before that, he had provided aid and evacuation to the mainland Chinese while they were fighting the fascist Imperial Army of Japan.
Most people don’t know about my father or his father and their service to their country, yet their service is indeed worth remembering. Most people don’t know that Vietnam veterans faced unparalleled hostility from their own countrymen as soon as they arrived stateside. Why? Because they returned home though San Francisco, the epicenter of the anti-War movement. These subtle details are worth remembering, too. Vietnam veterans had to overcome the lingering anti-American liberalism boiling over in academia, not just overseas.
Remembrance is also about more than recalling something, as mentioned above. It’s also about bringing back a vivid remembrance of something, not just getting caught up in the basic platitudes of a person and an event. There is something about casual or annual remembrance that causes us to diminish the greatness of the past.
Memorial Day should be the day that counters such a lazy recognition of great achievements. For example, during the Civil War 600,000 Americans died on American soil to end slavery. How easy it is for us to gloss over so great a sacrifice, the magnitude of which all other American conflicts—combined—still cannot rival. But each of those 600,000 men had families, slave or free, and the millions more around the world who wondered whether a government of the people, for the people, by the people would survive or perish. How many of those men lay at night wondering whether their country would live to see the next day? Would the scourge of slavery end, or would it fester and spread southward throughout the Americas? It’s so easy for us to take for granted the successful toil and anxieties of those who have fought for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No conflict has ever been a done deal for those in the conflict.
Remembrance also forces us to look further than the victories which ensued. I am one of dwindling number who can recall watching the fall of the Berlin Wall before my eyes on television. Younger people don’t even watch television, since they can see everyone on Facebook Live. Fewer remember that the Soviets built a wall to divide Berlin between East and West Germany. Such harrowing divisions seem quaint compared to today’s globalist drive. Yet Europe faced this very unsettling, communist divide for four decades.
I wonder how many young people even know about the Berlin Wall? How many can connect the long-standing conflicts of the Cold War? Have they forgotten World War II veteran and later Governor Ronald Reagan, who announced on national television, “I would like to see that Berlin Wall come down!” He said that in 1968, not 1988. While intellectuals and news pundits laughed at the B-List actor and General Electric spokesman, Governor Reagan would run for President on a clear platform opposing communism, not content with mere containment like his political peers. Throughout his presidency, Reagan knew that Communism was destined to fail. In 1987, he ordered the Soviet premier “Tear down this wall!” In 1989, Reagan would chip off a piece of the Berlin Wall for his safekeeping.
There’s one more thing all of us must remember on this Memorial Day: Our veterans’ fight for liberty does not end with them. We must continue their fight to ensure their legacy does not die with them.