My belly is full after a wonderful T-bone steak and baked potato
dinner with my wife. We’re in our new house, and my kids are all in
Florida with my folks basking on the beach as they start their summer
vacations. My dog is enjoying the steak bone in the freshly mown yard,
and the peace and quiet of suburbia is indeed gratifying and soothing.

Tomorrow morning — the day after Memorial Day — my wife and I, like
most of you, will go to work. Our day will be relatively serene,
peaceful and rewarding. When we get home we’ll both come in, let the
dog out, work on the new house some more, then eat another quiet meal
together in the sanctity of our soundless little neighborhood. The kids
will call in the evening, tell us about their day, and we’ll talk about
seeing them soon when their Florida vacation is over.

Ah, yes — life in America.

What most of our 1.3 million men and women in uniform wouldn’t give
to be able to live the kind of life they’re providing you and I. In
fact, that’s what Memorial Day was all about — remembering those who
have made the sacrifices — especially the ultimate sacrifice —
so you and I could bask in comfort in the most economically and
militarily powerful country in the world.

Considering that, I think it’s appropriate to remember those who are
guaranteeing our freedom even now, where they are and what most of them
are likely to be doing.

In Yugoslavia there are a number of Special Forces personnel
squatting in crummy, muddy ditches and crawling all over the countryside
on their bellies with laser target designators, “painting” targets for
our fighter and bomber pilots to destroy. While that is going on, there
are plenty of behind-the-scenes radar and intelligence operators guiding
their hands, as well as keeping an eye on other U.S. forces engaged
elsewhere in the world.

In eastern Europe right now, Air Force and Army ground and
maintenance personnel are helping to prepare attack helicopters, set up
base camps, and ready supplies for incoming combat personnel in
Albania. The accommodations are bad, the climate is unforgiving, and
all of them are spending their days living in tent cities preparing to
make war and wishing they were home.

Most of them — like most of us — know they shouldn’t be there, that
Yugoslavia poses no direct threat to our nation, and that this “war” is
illegal, ill-timed, and ill-advised. But they, like most of us,
understand what following orders is all about, and they, like us, know
that changing their situation anytime in the near future is out of their

In Korea, the most heavily fortified border in the world, some 37,000
U.S. soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are staring down an army of
nearly 5 million active duty and reserve troops who have been bred to
hate them and to kill them. That border is so volatile it could ignite
at any moment. And considering the array of force opposing them, our
troops know that it could be just a matter of hours after the shooting
starts that they will end up either dead or captured. But there they
are, nonetheless, keeping an eye on things as you and I live our serene
and peaceful lives.

In Iraq, our pilots take almost daily missile fire from anti-aircraft
and missile batteries. Hardly a day goes by anymore that these men
don’t put their lives on the line to enforce another foolhardy political
solution made by civilians and generals who neither have to physically
enforce that solution, nor even take responsibility for the original
decision anymore.

In Panama, our troops are finally beginning to come home after
decades of making sure that the vital Panama Canal waterway remains
open. While they are glad to be coming home, many leaving there worry
about the canal’s new patrons — the Chinese — and that in the future
they may have to return to take the canal back by force. You and I
aren’t worried, but then, we’re not going to be charged with taking it
back, are we?

In Japan, our troops constantly watch for signs of trouble coming
from China, the world’s newest superpower and ruled by men who hate
democracy, hate America, and hate freedom.

In Columbia, American personnel — mostly air assets — help the
local forces and police patrol real war zones created by well-financed
and armed drug lords who will stop at nothing to make sure their product
gets to market.

In Europe, tens of thousands of troops remain stationed to keep
Russia at bay and train for possible action in any number of potential
military flare-ups that will involve the U.S.

Whether it will be eastern Europe, the Middle East, or the
Asian-Pacific rim, all the time — 24/7 — our troops are constantly at
the ready, making sure the rest of us can go on about our lives in

It doesn’t matter if we agree with the political decisions which
saddled our troops with the various and sundry missions they currently
have to deal with. I think it’s safe to say most of us don’t think much
of most of the missions our forces have to face everyday at this point
in our history.

But if that’s the case, then it’s up to us to change things for them
so they will be better able to defend us when they have to, and so that
— in the meantime — they too can enjoy a little more of the comforts
they provide to us. If we are either unwilling or unable to don a
uniform, get trained, grab a rifle and join these men and women at the
front lines of America’s defensive perimeter, then the least we ought to
be doing is remembering who they are, where they are, what they are
doing, and why they are doing it.

Life in America is good, and it is a protected way of life because we
have a dedicated military force protecting it all day, every day.
Sometime, when it’s not Memorial Day, think about them and what they’re
doing for you.

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