It might not be immediately obvious, but I was raised in a family that revered military service, at least in times of war.
It was a different type of military honor than in the US though, because it went all the way to Rome and it was the idea of tribal defense, and also the idea of manly deportment (which weirdly never excluded me in my family.) Legionaries shouldn’t cry, you were never a craven coward, even when you were a girl child and trembling inside. When battle was offered, you joined battle with all seeming appearance of outward glee. At any rate, you were supposed to fight to defend those smaller and weaker than you because that’s what humans did. And yeah, sure, you could get hurt, but who cares about that?
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods.”
I fell from this into Heinlein, so many of whose books (including the juveniles) have someone adapting to military discipline and to the higher purpose of their calling to serve.
Both of these are antithetical to my education in an Europe which believes that any display of patriotism and militarism CAUSES war. Yes, that is the lesson they took from WWI and WWII.
However, having tried recently to read a mil sf book I couldn’t quite get into, I do still see the military in Heinlein’s light, and can’t understand having the military for the military’s sake, without a reason to fight, without the fight meaning something.
Americans, by definition were given the best reason to fight. We are something new in the world of men, a tribe of laws, a nation forged by an ideal. We are so bizarre the chances of our surviving much from our founding were low.
Fortunately we raise enough young men willing to fight for the ideal, even when the ashes of their ancestors aren’t here — unless you count their spiritual ancestors, of course — and enough scientists and inventors to have the best military in the world. And we also understood early on that the best way to defend our freedom was to fight for the freedom of others.
Yeah, sometimes we misstep. And sometimes our leaders are in thrall of shiny foreign ideologies and get us deep in things best avoided.
But by and large, the blood of our heroes was shed to preserve what we are: the last, best, hope of mankind.
May we always produce such heroes.
And may we survive.
I understand the appeal of peace. I understand the waste of young men dying in battle. But I also understand that peace is not a unilateral choice and that humans being humans there will always be threats. And I understand that if we go the way of Europe, Western civilization is lost or at least ripe for conquest.
I’d thank those who have died to preserve the USA but the gift is too large for “thank you” to mean anything.
All I can do is respect their sacrifice, honor them, and continue to uphold the country they died for.