It is Memorial Day weekend already, marking the unofficial start of summer. The school year is ending, and families are getting ready to begin their annual summer vacations. In the fun of welcoming summer back into our lives, we have to be careful to not forget the “Memorial” part of this holiday.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. It began when ladies in the South started decorating the graves of dead soldiers prior to the end of the Civil War. The first official observance was on May 30th, 1868 when flowers were placed on soldiers graves at
. Arlington National Cemetery
Memorial Day is officially a time to honor those who have given their lives in service to their country. Since the time of our nation’s birth, we have been blessed with brave and capable young men and women who were willing to dedicate, and if necessary, surrender their lives to protect our freedom.
It has become common in recent years for people to make a point of proclaiming “I support our troops” as a disclaimer during political debates, as though such a proclamation negates any evidence to the contrary. What does it actually mean then, to “support our troops”? To answer that question, it is first necessary to fully understand the overall mission of those troops.
Much of what I experienced on that day in 1979 when I officially began my enlistment in the U.S. Navy has faded to a distant memory, but one thing that continues to stand out is the oath I took that marked the start of my service.
I, James P. Willis, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
Taking this oath created for me a solemn obligation to my country to uphold and defend the Constitution of the
against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. This is an obligation that I took very seriously. My enlistment officially ended in 1988, but I don’t recall ever being informed that I was released from that obligation. All of the members of our armed forces have taken up this same obligation, and this is the basis for their service. If then, we are going to honestly say that we support our troops we must be bound to the same obligation as they. United States
Far too often when people say they support the troops, they are simply signaling that they will refrain from overtly criticizing the soldiers. For them ‘supporting the troops’ is simply a courtesy they are magnanimous enough to bestow. To go beyond giving simple lip service to supporting the troops takes much more.
To genuinely support our troops in their mission to uphold and defend the Constitution, it is necessary to at least have a basic knowledge of that document, and an understanding of its importance. Our constitution has been under attack since its signing. To defend it requires that we know its history and content, appreciate the simplicity and the genius of its provisions, and recognize those who seek to weaken and destroy its effectiveness.
It is important to understand that our rights were not granted to us by our Constitution. Our founding fathers recognized that we have certain inherent rights as human beings, and it was their goal to create a government that was tasked with the job of protecting our freedom to exercise those rights. No act of any government can ever take away those rights, but it can take away the freedom to exercise them. The Constitution is the document that defines the role and authority of the government that is tasked with protecting our freedom.
Enemies of that Constitution seek to weaken it for the purpose of restricting our freedoms. Obviously some of those enemies are foreign to this country, but far more enemies exist within our own borders. Some are organized groups that work to expand the government beyond the scope of its constitutional authority, and it is easy to see how successful those groups have been.
Some hold elected office, often occupying the highest offices of our government. They exist in each of the major political parties, and some belong to no party. It can be difficult at times to recognize them but as Jesus once said, “You shall know them by their fruits”. Look for those who, sometimes with the best of intentions, seek to expand the power and role of the government over our lives, and you can begin to recognize them.
Perhaps the most insidious of these enemies are those who belong to no organization and hold no political office. These are our very own citizens who, for the sake of their own comfort and perceived security, are willing to allow the government to neglect our freedoms and confiscate that which we earn. Most of us are guilty of this to one degree or another. It is far too easy to look to the government to make our lives easier, or to solve our problems (most of which are of our own making). We expect the government to protect us from anything that might befall us, forgetting the fact that the only proper role of the government is to protect our freedom.
How can we claim to support the troops while we are at the same time willing to undermine the very same constitution that they are sworn to protect? Is it not incumbent on us to examine our own hearts and beliefs and make sure that we are not among the enemies they face? As we honor our fallen soldiers this weekend, let us all take a moment to recommit our support of those who continue to put their lives on the line to protect our freedom.