Remember. Who we are and who we want to be grows out of who we have been.
The war against evil has been waged as long as history has been remembered. Those who seek to harm others for selfish gain or sometimes out of pure desire for power or even as pure manifestations of hatred seem to always be with us. Between the forces of evil and destruction stand those who put on the uniform of service who apply force as necessary but always with honor and integrity obedient to higher values and in service to all people and to peace. Evil must never be tolerated. It often cannot be reason with. Compromise with evil has never proven effective. Often the price is great.
2500 years ago a huge force of Persians (from the area of modern day Iran) sought to invade and destroy Greek civilization (the cradle and birthplace of western civilization and western values of liberty). A small force of 300 Spartans and some 700 Thespians stood in the gap at Thermopylae to slow the advance and allow the Greeks time to muster for defense. They were slaughtered to the last man. But their sacrifice was key to the preservation of Greek culture from destruction by Persian forces. It has made all the difference. For out of the long tree of history planted in Greece arose the values of liberty and freedom. Buried in the words of great Greek thinkers, concepts such as these would spring to life as they were rediscovered and developed during the enlightenment and would give birth to the founding principles of our nation.
Remembrance. Why have we fought? Why do we fight? And what is worth fighting for? And what can happen when a civilization is unwilling to pay the price for its own defense?
Very soon I will transfer to Arlington National Cemetery where I will place many brothers in arms in their final resting places. It will be a profound privilege to honor those who have sacrificed of their lives to defend our nation and the principles upon which it is founded. Most of those funerals will be veterans of the greatest generation which fought against the tyrannies threatening the world in World War II. And perhaps there will be fellow warriors from this generations struggle to lay to rest. I am grateful for them all and for the sacrifice of all, living and dead, for their country. I am honored to counted amongst their company in some small way. They remind us of who we are, who we have been, and most importantly: who we should be.