"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

231 Years

It's 0700 Pacific time and I still have about an hour left on duty before I'm relieved. Yeah, not exactly how I wanted to start my holiday; on the other hand, no matter how mundane the job seems, somebody has to stand on the wall. Always. A few disjointed thoughts, then, in these early morning hours before I get to enjoy the rest of the day.

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Men like Sergeant Michael Stokely, killed by an IED two years ago in Iraq, whose father offers some insight on
the cost of freedom and who pays for it. And while we honor the dead who sacrifice has always been the downpayment for this nation's security, we should also be grateful for those still alive on the front lines, and the amazing qualities they demonstrate daily that give us confidence in victory even in the darkest hour. Monday in Iraq brought us this amazing story about a rescue mission executed to retrieve two downed chopper pilots. Except this wasn't the case of a Black Hawk swooping in to scoop them from safety. Rather, the pilots of an Apache attack helicopter saw their downed comrades and took the initiative to snatch them from harm's way. One pilot even gave up the armored protection of his cockpit to make room for one of the injured aircrew and strapped himself down on an exterior weapons station. Talk about selflessness, ingenuity, and plain old-fashioned testicular fortitude.

What motivates men like these is the question posed to several
writers who've seen service themselves; the answers, I suspect, have changed little over the course of two and a half centuries. My favorite words were from the last author: "I fight because there’s a war on. We didn’t start it but we better be damned determined to end it. Say what you want about the Iraq invasion and unintended consequences. That doesn’t change the facts that the rotten core of the insurgency there is our mortal enemy, and that the long war is in its infancy. In a fight you move forward from where you are, not where you want to be." And, even better: "Also, I fight because I’m a Marine. And Marines like to fight." Ooh-rah indeed.

That's all for now. Perhaps I'll add more later, or (hopefully) I'll be too busy drinking beer, watching fireworks, and thinking about my buddies deployed overseas and how they volunteered to miss out on all the big celebrations to harrass my keyboard. Happy Independence Day. And: America is the land of the free because it is also the home of the brave.

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