World War II legend Omar Bradley once famously stated that, “As far as I’m concerned, war itself is immoral.”
And yet he chose to make it his life’s work.
A contradiction? Only to those who cannot grasp that the only commodities more precious than life are the principles by which we live it.
None of these is more fundamental than freedom, and never is the need to safeguard it — even at the cost of our very lives — more wrenching than on Memorial Day, when Americans annually pay tribute to those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of liberty.
As contemptuous as Gen. Bradley was of armed conflict, he clearly understood the blessings we enjoy as Americans can never be completely purchased. Rather, they are an installment loan on which regular payments in blood must be paid.
“It is to the United States,” he said, “that all freemen look for the light and the hope of the world. Unless we dedicate ourselves completely to this struggle, unless we combat hunger with food, fear with trust, suspicion with faith, fraud with justice — and threats with power — nations will surrender to the futility, the hopelessness, the panic on which wars feed.”
Confronting and defeating evil is the painful but unrelenting burden we are regularly obliged to bear if we expect to bask in the glow of freedom ourselves and bequeath greater volumes of it to our posterity.
Americans are not by nature a warlike people, and it’s not our way to recklessly project might where it’s neither sought nor welcomed. But history has taught few lessons as clearly as it has the folly of isolation.
When bullies are allowed to suppress freedom in one corner of the globe, they are empowered to export their foul product to others. And it would be an abrogation of our responsibility as a great and just nation if we overvalued our own safety while undervaluing the misery those less blessed than we.
This nation’s inspiring leaders have marshaled mighty armies on countless occasions based on this timeless truth, but it isn’t their collective brilliance we celebrate on this day of reflection. It is the simple, yet awe-inspiring, contract with destiny executed for more than two centuries by individual Americans in uniform.
And the heroes martyred in the ensuing struggles.
We at the Freedom Foundation are humbled by their devotion and valor, and we regard it as our sacred duty to preserve every day the freedoms for which they paid the highest possible price.
May our efforts in some small way do honor to their magnificent sacrifice.