By Lt. Col. Phillip W. Bean, USMC
Atlantic News, Thursday, May 29, 2003
Read at this year's Memorial Day ceremonies on the Seacoast by Lt. Col. Phillip W. Bean, USMC
It is fitting and proper that we honor those that have sacrificed life for freedom, for defense and support of the Constitution of the United States, for our security, for our safety, for our liberty, for our dreams, for the dreams and aspirations of the entire world. Those that have not returned are our modern day centurions, our Spartan warriors, our mortal saviors here on earth.
President Lincoln, at Gettysburg, implored "the living to be dedicated to the unfinished work," "that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of dev3otion." In essence, the wartime President spoke in contemporary terms of "Payback:" he spoke of a living legacy.
In a continuing war against tyranny, terror, murder and genocide, fighting Americans have again laid down their lives. Some say this war commenced on 9-11. A closer examination of international terrorism takes us back to the terrorist murders of Jewish athletes at an Olympic village almost 30 years ago. Nothing was done by the international community. Terrorist struck the Marines in Lebanon. Nothing was done. Terror struck at the Kohbar Towers; nothing was done. Terror struck American aircraft over Lockerbie; nothing was done. Terror struck a wheelchair-bound Jew, thrown overboard at sea; nothing was done. Terror and murder struck the USS Cole; nothing was done. Las Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, preached a response of "do nothing."
While we and the rest of the world "did nothing," plans were laid and executed for 9-11. "Payback" for those we honor today demands that we never meet the challenge of terror, tyranny and murder unmet; that in President Kennedy's words, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."
"Payback" for those we honor today is to abolish the soft cradle of semantic luxury and political correctness. We know who the murderous terrorists are. We know where the murderous terrorists come from. We know who supports the murderous terrorists. We know the cloak the murderous terrorists don. Sun Tzu, author of the "Art of War" and a more contemporary Chinese philosopher, advocated the decapitation of enemy leadership. "Payback" to those who we honor today demands the decapitation of the "jihad." Al Qaeda, Abu Sayeff, decapitation of the murderers, terrorists and those who support them. "Meet any hardship ... oppose any foe."
We are a nation at war. Your sons, your daughters, brothers and sisters, carry the torch passed on by those who sacrificed their lives. They serve as infantry, they serve as pilots, they serve as nurses, they serve in combat arms, they serve in combat support, they serve in combat service support, in every branch of the volunteer service, in every corner of the world, in every climate. They serve in a non-linear battlefield where there is no front, where there is no rear, where there is no rest, where there is no truce, where there is no peace. "Payback" for those we honor today is complete support for a nation at war, especially the combatants. There is no "I support the troops but..." "Payback" demands support of the nation, support of the troops ... period.
"Payback" dictates we unshackle the myths of the Viet Nam war, put forth by radical apologists, by revisionists, by the timid. The execution of the "cold war" of "containment," manifests itself in heroic and legendary battlefield accomplishment by those we honor today, both in Viet Nam and Korea. "Payback" is to give credit for defeating the evil tyranny of communism, for tearing down the Iron Curtain, to those that died fighting in Viet Nam, for those that died fighting in Korea.
"Payback" to those that have fallen, those that we honor today, is to thank those that work at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, at Hanscom, at New Boston Tracking Station, to thank those developing the sophisticated weapons that save lives on the battlefield.
"Payback" is to acknowledge the words of pre-eminent statesman George F. Kennan who urged, "We preserve a correct relationship between power and responsibility and that we do not attempt to involve in complicated international problems large numbers of countries whose interests may only be remotely affected by them, and who will be powerless to make any appreciable contribution to such remedies as it may be necessary to adopt." Further he stated, "It is an abuse of the United Nations and not a suitable devotion to it ... to saddle it with tasks beyond its strength and beyond what realities allow." Millions of people across every hemisphere, have perished under the watch of the United Nations. The world needs our leadership, our commitment, our action.
Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, declared "training for war, indistinguishable from war itself." "Payback" is to honor those who sacrifice their lives during training missions. When a chopper goes down in the winter chill at Ford Drum, when a chopper is down in the surf at Camp Lejeune, when a sailor is lost overboard, the loss of life — the sacrifice — is not to be diminished; the loss of life — the sacrifice — not to be tarnished or noted with an asterisk.
"Payback" for those we honor today is to remember our fireman, our policeman, who protect us, who serve us, who fall for us, close to home, in normal operations and today, in combat operations within our very own borders.
Those we honor today have vanquished every enemy of freedom and liberty in this nation's existence. We are the stewards of their sacrifice and ambassadors of their mighty legacy. Again, we conclude with Lincoln at Gettysburg: "That from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."