Did they die in vain?

By Steve Woodward

The sobering realization defining Memorial Day 2023 is that they might have died in vain. In all of the wars. Across all of the many decades.

This foreboding thought came over me as I listened to the words of prolific war historian Patrick K. O’Donnell during a podcast this morning. He described uncommon valor displayed by common citizens motivated by nothing more than a sense of duty to defend American freedom and advance liberty beyond our shores.

Generations of Americans have honored the unfathomable courage of the men and women who wore the uniform. Not in parades. But on battlefields strewn with carnage, obscured by smoke and flying shrapnel and haunted by the din of youngsters crying in agony until they fell silent.

The boys of Pointe du Hoc, D-day 1944

With so much detailed documentation on film and in literature of their sacrifices and what they preserved — freedom from tyranny that defined virtually all of human history — how have Americans arrived at a dangerous crossroads where indifference meets ignorance?

Patriotism, Christian faith and devotion to the nuclear family are not merely wavering. These tenets of American stability are in free fall. Young people are taught — in no uncertain terms — that America was unjustly founded by white racists whose racism remains engrained in every thread running through our culture, and that our Judeo-Christian heritage is sexist and cruel.

We face new generations of adults who do not love, and might more often loathe, our country. We face waves of undocumented, illegal immigrants who long to populate our soil but will never assimilate or vote, and would kill any one of us to seize our property. And we have children in public education systems who are mocked for praying, bullied for displaying an American flag and groomed to question everything about their very humanity.

Americans in 1998 who recognized that patriotism was very important to them comprised 70 percent in a survey. A survey released in March 2023 finds just 38 percent today acknowledging the importance of patriotism in their lives. Hand in hand with this erosion is a steep decline in those who say religious faith is very important. In 1998, 62 percent said it was; today, 39 percent agree.

And the trends are even more alarming among young Americans. Merely 23 percent of adults under age 30 said in the new survey that patriotism was very important to them personally, compared with 59 percent of seniors ages 65 or older. 

(Editor’s note: The Wall Street Journal survey conducted with a nonpartisan research organization, NORC, polled 1,019 people from March 1-13, 2023, mostly online. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Read more.)

During a recent segment of a program he hosts on Epoch TV, Joshua Phillip lamented these trends. “This is a very unhealthy thing because patriotism is what holds up generationally the idea that represents what a nation is,” he said. “You can only go a couple of generations without that before, basically, you have a restructuring.” Or a collapse.

In his farewell address to the nation in 1989, President Ronald Reagan more or less forecasted declining patriotism, warning of “an eradication of the American memory (of military sacrifice) that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.”

In his American experience in the 20th century, “we were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American,” Reagan said. “And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea … or you could get a sense of patriotism from school.”

Reagan in Normandy, June 6, 1984

The America Reagan knew and reflected on just 33 years ago has all but vanished. In the same address, Reagan recalled a speech in France.

“(In 1984) on the 40th anniversary of D-day, I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who’d fought on Omaha Beach. (She wrote), ‘We will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did.’

“Well, let’s help her keep her word. If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are.” 

President Joe Biden, in his Memorial Day 2023 remarks, issued a hollow pledge: “Today we rededicate ourselves to the work for which they gave their lives.”

To what work does he refer? Infusing the modern military with LGBTQ sensitivity training? Diminishing America’s stature on the global stage by our deference to China? Threatening national sovereignty by deliberately failing to protect our nation’s southern border with Mexico from full-blown invasion? Proposing electrical vehicles to replace existing military fleets? Locking down citizens and crushing our liberties at the behest of shadowy terror merchants in the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control? Accepting as normal lawlessness in our cities?

It is beyond nauseating to recognize that they gave their lives and, yet, in a matter of generations the freedoms for which they fought, cloaked by God’s divine providence, would be trampled by the Godless and the deranged, the weak and the self-absorbed, and by deeply evil fellow citizens who control levers of power, influence and wealth.

Almost 80 years after terrified American boys courageously stormed the beaches on the Normandy coast, let us summon anew their courage and valor, not in a faraway land, but to defeat, decisively, our enemies within.

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