Joseph Xavier Martin
Three of my brothers were veterans. All are now deceased.
I pause to think of all of them this Memorial Day and remember the love and laughter they had brought to our family.
I had an opportunity, last June, to visit my brother Paddy’s grave in a military cemetery in New Hampshire. He was a combat medic in the central highlands of Vietnam during that awful conflict.
They all looked so peaceful to me, these gallant lads, who now lay so coldly in the ground. Their lives had been cut short, defending their country, in now forgotten patches of jungle and earth, across the far reaches of the globe, alone but for the gallant band of brothers who now lie around them.
They are marked now by simple headstones — their lives remembered in the misted and fading memories of loved ones.
As I watched the fluttering and undulating wave of red, white and blue American flags on Veterans or Memorial Day, I listened to the eye-wetting and mournful allure of the sole bugler playing Taps. I thought of what these men and women had bought for us at so very high a price. Patriotism is not so idle a concept to those many who have paid so dearly for it. They won for us the right to be free. They won for us the right to disagree with our government and stand and say so unafraid. Much of the world does not enjoy this luxury.
I think of them now in context of several of the presidential elections over the last span of years. Whatever side anyone took they did so freely. Many openly criticized their government and sought a change of regimes, as they have a perfect right to do.
This right of dissent was purchased for all of us at Valley Forge, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, Belleau Wood, Tarawa, Inchon, the Mekong Delta, Baghdad and a hundred other places where the blood of young Americans consecrates the now nearly forgotten battlegrounds. And as I look at the flag waving, in front of my own home, I think of what these many sons and daughters of America have secured for us.
With all of our faults, we are still one of the most generous, the most giving and idealistic people who have ever lived on this planet. Millions of people across the globe are free from tyranny because we cared enough to make them that way. We feed the hungry, provide for the needy and do what we can, not because we have to, because it is who and what we are as a nation.
So when next you see an American Flag waving in the morning breeze, let it remind you that the red in it represents the blood that young men and women shed fighting for it. The blue reminds us of those turquoise skies that float above our bountiful amber waves of grain, which we share with all. The white symbolizes the light of hope that we bring to many in the world who are much in need of our help. That simple piece of cloth is a symbol and a banner that means so very much to us.
Long may it wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave and God bless America.