“Gentlemen cry, ‘Peace! Peace!’ But there is no peace.”
That quote, by Patrick Henry, exemplifies the sadness of our species.
Generations of people all around the world all have the same desire: peace and freedom. It’s easy to think when we look at our nation’s wealth and security that everyone in the world is safe and free. The truth is — even today — half the globe lives under the boot of tyranny.
What separates the free from the oppressed? Who draws the thin line separating democracy from tyranny?
That boundary is marked and guarded by the noble footsteps of the American veteran.
It is an incontrovertible fact that freedom begins and ends along the thin red line where American soldiers fought and died.
Whenever I think of these heroes, I'm reminded of Abraham Lincoln's immortal words: "Now we are engaged in a Great Civil war, testing whether this nation, or any nation, so conceived (in liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal) can long endure?”
Lincoln’s words were not the confident statement of a victorious general. It was a heart-wrenching plea of an embattled president of a weak, fledgling nation. His question was this: can liberty survive? Can peace endure? Or is America doomed to the same fate as every other democracy throughout history— to be conquered and enslaved by cruel tyrants?
People often say that war never solves anything. Really? War solved slavery.
Over half a million Americans died to end that blight. War stopped the Nazis. Military might halted communism. The godless ideologies of fascism and communism murdered more than 100 million people in the last century alone.
Who stopped the communists? Who crushed the Nazis?
The American veteran.
You and I live in a remarkable era of peace and prosperity. Throughout all of history, there have been only two similar times when the world has known peace between the great powers.
The Roman Empire enjoyed a Pax Romana for around 200 years between the reigns of Augusta Caesar and Marcus Aurelius. The world again prospered for another 100 years — between the defeat of Napoleon and the First World War — with the Pax Britannica. The two World Wars that followed wrought horrendous suffering and unspeakable carnage; but since that horrible time, no great nation has fought another for a remarkable 75 years.
This Pax Americana we are currently enjoying is a rarity in history, not the norm … and it was purchased by the blood of the American veteran.
America has lost many soldiers since World War II. Each and every son and daughter is precious, all the more so because we have lost so relatively few. What those patriots purchased is a world of peace and stability … and your own personal individual freedoms.
The Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago this week. I’m sure most of you remember the happy revelers who delighted in tearing apart those hated bricks. But can you imagine what the world would be like if the Russians had won the Cold War? Would those people have been celebrating then?
I truly hope that someday, somehow, mankind finds peace on earth. But until that glorious day — when the lion lies next to the lamb — it is very important that America remains the lion.
Because America is the last best hope for peace on earth. After all, if the American soldier doesn’t secure the blessings of liberty, who will? What other nation will stand up to the hideous strength of the wolves that prowl around us?
We must always remember; we must never forget: it’s the veteran, not the preacher, who gives us freedom of religion. It’s the veteran, not the reporter, who gives us freedom of the press. It’s the veteran, not the poet, who gives us freedom of speech. It’s the veteran, not the politician, who gives us the right to vote.
I'm reminded of those veterans every time I hear the words of our national anthem. The song ends in a brilliant crescendo — and like the Gettysburg Address — it ends in a question, not an answer: "Oh, say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave?"
Does our flag still wave ore the land of the free?
Yes. Our flag still waves over the land of the free … because of the sacrifices of the brave.
It is fitting that we remember.
Dave Belton is a Republican from Morgan County, serving in the Georgia House of Representatives.