On Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend, my family and I gather at a small rural cemetery on a windswept hillside, surrounded by rich Iowa farmland, as the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars honors the men buried there who served in all of America's wars, from the War of 1812 to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
An aging VFW honor guard provides a 21-gun salute, followed by a lone bugler playing Taps. Some of the men being honored there were teenagers when they lost their lives in battle. Some came home to raise families and grow old in that community, or perhaps they settled there after their war years to start a whole new life. Still others migrated elsewhere before returning home to live out their final years and be buried in that little cemetery.
Whatever their circumstances, they are remembered each Memorial Day at this brief ceremony. Among the names of those who served in World War I is that of my maternal grandfather. He and my grandmother settled there in the 1930s and made the community their home. They are buried together in that little cemetery.
For the past 14 years, my father's name has been among those interred there who served in World War II. As a 22-year-old NCO on Eisenhower's staff during the planning for D-Day, only a freak accident resulting in a broken ankle kept him from sailing across the English Channel on June 6, 1944, with the rest of the invasion force. Like most WWII vets, he never talked much about his wartime experiences, but he did tell us about that one, and I believe it always haunted him that the young man who took his place that day was one of the first to fall on Omaha Beach.
I have always viewed this special Memorial Day ceremony as a celebration of the lives of ordinary men who rose to the occasion in the worst of times to do extraordinary things. For the last three years, I have felt a sense of sadness and resentment on behalf of those men, because their country is now led by a man who believes that America is an arrogant nation that needs to apologize to the rest of the world.
From the bloody, mustard gas-poisoned battlefields of World War I to the beaches of Normandy, from the freezing cold of Korea to the rice paddies of Vietnam, from the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, these brave men set aside their own personal hopes, dreams, goals and lives to serve us when we needed them most. They fought for an ideal this president cannot even fathom and about which he apparently cares nothing, and their country they defended owes apologies to no one.
I hear people say of Barack Obama, "He's not one of us," almost as if he's a space alien. I understand what they mean. He is not a loyal American. He is a radical ideologue whose worldview is global and whose loyalties lie somewhere other than with the nation that has given him so much.
I miss my dad. My father would have turned 90 this month. I wish he had lived far beyond the 76 years he was given. Hardly a day has passed in the last 14 years that I have not wished that I could ask him the questions I failed to ask when I thought I had another year or another month with him, or to tell him how much I appreciate the sacrifice he and his generation made to preserve my freedom.
But when I see the President of the United States travel to Europe and refuse to go to a U.S. military cemetery in France, as he did during his first year in office, I am glad my father did not live to see it. When I see this president speak before crowds of ungrateful Europeans, all of whom, without the intervention of my country — twice in one century — would be living under the jackboot of Nazi Germany today, I am ashamed for the honor of all the brave men who fought beside them.
Just as my father and grandfather stood against evil in their time, may God grant us the endurance and the fortitude to stand against the evil of this president's ideology and agenda, and the wisdom to replace him in November.
© 2012 by Doug Patton
Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself much more often than not. Now working as a freelance writer, his weekly columns of sage political analysis are published the world over by legions of discerning bloggers, courageous webmasters and open-minded newspaper editors.