Celebrating Heroes

What They Fought and Died For

Today is Memorial Day and you’ll see a lot of words reminding you of the sacrifice of American service personnel who gave their lives for this country. But there is a nuance on this subject that some miss.

It is the difference between what they fought for and what they died for.

As an Army vet myself who served in peacetime, I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of men who served in war, specifically the Vietnam War, as I was active duty between 1980-84. Those men told me, as I later read in books like Sir John Keegan’s “The Face of Battle,” that men under fire are not fighting for flag, ideals, or even in the most personal sense for their country. They are fighting for the man next to them.

Of course, they are called to the colors by love of nation, perhaps even idealism. However, when the balloon goes up all that goes out the window, shorn off by the rough realities of life in combat. What is left is a fierce devotion to survival and an even stronger devotion to not let down the men around you. That’s what makes rational men with families, men who love life, pounce on grenades to save their comrades. It makes them volunteer to be the man who is left behind to cover the evacuation of his brothers in arms. They don’t fight for democracy at that point. They fight for a bond closer than anything Thomas Jefferson ever knew.

If they don’t survive, then indeed what they have died for is their country, i.e., for all of us. Their sacrifice enables us to live in freedom, actually to even live. It permits us to organize and run a nation based on our own ideas and values. That is something many foreigners, even close cousins like the Brits, rarely get about America.

Given my Army service in Germany, time in college overseas, and my work in DC, I gratefully count many foreigners amongst my friends. Some close friends. When conversations come up about a typically American avocation like guns they are clueless. They see the Second Amendment as strange, if not suicidal. This is because they are trying to look at America through their own national prism. When I mention that guns made this nation, settled it, and keep it free they scoff.

When I try to point out that American guns play the role that broadswords and the longbow played for the Brits or the rapier for the French, I’m just met with incredulous glances. What they fail to ken is the deaths in battle we honor today make those special qualities that are the United States, details like the 2A that set us apart from our progenitors in Europe and elsewhere, a viable national reality. Those men and women in our uniforms may not have fought for the flag per se. But their ultimate payment of self keeps it flying.

So bear that in mind at your cookouts and beach outings today. Maybe this Memorial Day say a little prayer for those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who found different beaches, like ones named Omaha and Utah. If you’re of a mind to, as I have, perhaps even visit a veteran’s cemetery for a small time and pay your respects.

It’s not exactly a great burden to do so and it will remind you and maybe your family about what those honored dead fought and died for.

It will recall, as Lincoln said, their last full measure of devotion.

And that’s a good way to spend any day.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
David Kamioner

A veteran of service with US Army Intelligence, the Pershing Nuclear Brigade, and the First Infantry Division, Kamioner is a graduate of the University of Maryland’s European Division and spent over twenty years as a political consultant, college instructor, non-profit director, and corporate PR director. He hails from New York City and grew up in South Florida. He served with the American Red Cross as part of the relief effort for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For several years he ran homeless shelters, most recently homeless shelters for US military veterans. He currently is a Senior Contributor for OpsLens.com, a writer for American Greatness, and has been published in LifeZette. He is the author of the novel "Prisoner of the Chattering Class" and lives in Annapolis, Maryland.

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