Monday, May 26, 2008

For They Who Sacrifice

On this Memorial Day, here's to all those who stand guard through terrible ordeals far from home, just so we can sleep safely in our beds. From an article I wrote a while back title Perseverance in War:

By perseverance, the tiny Greek cities withstood the continents spanning Persian Empire, to lay the foundations of Western Civilization. Even after Athens itself was occupied and torched the Greeks stood firm, managing to defeat the Persian fleet at Salamis, cutting off the invader’s overwhelming army from naval support.

Later the Romans persevered against Carthage’s greatest general, Hannibal, even after losing 50,000 legionnaires at Cannae. Earlier, an even greater force of 80,000 Roman sailors was lost at sea in a storm. The city stood firm against her enemies despite the numerous disasters she faced, saving Greco-Judean culture from Asian mysticism.

After the Fall of Rome in 410 AD, the torch passed to Byzantium as Defenders of the West. For a thousand years the City on the Golden Horn withstood waves of barbarians including Huns, Muslims, and Vikings, that overwhelmed the rest of the world, thus buying time for the youthful German kingdoms in Europe to create the Modern World.

By perseverance, the least of the new kingdoms, England, outfought more powerful land powers, including Spain, the Dutch, and France, to become Mistress of the Seas. Rather than a European dictatorship controlling the world’s sea-lanes, a benevolent democracy spread its culture of free trade and human rights around the world.

George Washington, leading the newborn American colonies, had the audacity to defy this great superpower when they no longer were treated as Englishmen. Without a navy and only a rag-tag militia for an army, Washington kept his forces in being for 13 years, until the British wearied of the conflict and granted her colonies freedom.

In 1863, Ulysses S. Grant suffered derision from his fellow generals, the press, and from Washington, not to mention the Confederate enemy besieged at Vicksburg. After enduring months of defeat and criticism, he persevered to conquer the city, thus splitting the Confederacy in two and assuring Union victory in the Civil War.

Winston Churchill and his beleaguered nation persevered alone after the Fall of France in 1940, before the onslaught of the German Luftwaffe. Though the world gave the tiny island little hope to survive, England persevered to stand beside Russia and America in the final defeat of the Axis powers, thus saving democracy from a new barbarism.

Ronald Reagan ignored those of his fellow countrymen who resigned to live with communism, and declared its demise in his lifetime. Reagan was right, and the critics were wrong. Thus was democracy given a new chance that it almost lost in the aftermath of World War 2.

On and on the story goes, how men and women defied the odds and stood up to bullies and critics to save nations and transform societies. They endured pain and hunger in the field with their troops, suffered ostracizing from their peers and abandoned by friends, made laughing stocks in the media, and endured the threats of enemies. They persevered through all this to give us all a better world.