Honoring Heroes Who Were Different

Today, even as we honor those who gave their lives in military service for us, Americans are tolerating another round of warnings about those who came home.

They are different, some so-called intellectuals tell us. They are to be feared, others add.

Sadly, this is nothing new. Many Vietnam-era veterans remember coming home to be spit upon and accused of being “baby killers.” Shame on us as a nation for permitting that to happen.

But what is different this time around is that the demonization of veterans has official sanction from some in our own government. Look for home-grown terrorists first among the ranks of those who have served in the military, they warn us.

Shame on us now, too, for not demanding that any public official with that view be fired immediately.

In critical ways, however, those who serve us in uniform are different. In many ways they are the very best among us.

Today, Memorial Day, is an appropriate time to consider the obvious difference between civilians and too many of those who have served our nation during its more than two centuries of existence:

While most Americans stayed at home and enjoyed the blessings of freedom and prosperity, more than 1.2 million servicemen and women gave their lives so we could continue to do so. They left the lush, forest-covered hills of the Ohio Valley to patrol terrorist-infested deserts in Afghanistan and Iraq. They left comfortable classrooms in West Virginia and Ohio to learn brutal lessons in the jungles of Vietnam.

Young men accustomed to the relative gentleness of the seasons here endured winter in Korea while fighting off “human wave” attacks. Local boys who had never learned to swim prayed as their ships went down in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, while some of their buddies from back home resorted to Yankee ingenuity to stop German Panzers.

Yes, indeed, there was something different about them.

And there still is. These are men and women who have chosen to make enormous sacrifices for us, simply in order to defend us against the violent chaos our nation’s many enemies are intent on bringing to our shores.

Their skills, dedication and courage make them very different from so many of the rest of us.

Many Americans seem to understand that. We have no patience for those who warn – against all evidence – that veterans somehow are a threat to us. We respect and revere those who serve us in uniform. We mourn deeply those who give their lives for us.

Today, then, we as a nation grieve for the fallen. May God keep them in His care – and may He continue to give us men and women willing and able to defend us.