Monday, May 30

C-SPAN is presently covering the Memorial Day ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. I have had the privilege of visiting this sacred place a handful of times and observing the changing of the guard at this Tomb. It's a place where field after field of white crosses speak in a poignant, breathless silence of heroism and sacrifice -- of "Duty, Honor, Country."

You feel a chill down your spine and a lump in your throat upon entering Arlington and you're forever touched by the atmosphere of patriotism and high purpose that pervades its acres of graves upon leaving it.

President Bush is just beginning his address now, having been preceded by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rightfully, he has paid particular honor to the veterans, living and dead, of World War II, given the 60th anniversary this year of that somber chapter in the history of our world.

President Bush's address was short and heartfelt, but did not rise in eloquence to meet the solemnity of the moment. His leadership as Commander-In-Chief honors those who have fallen adequately enough, I think.

The president has departed and the colors have been retired. Spirits have stirred: spirits in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, in white and in dress blues. Spirits -- each of whom gave their last full measure of devotion.

As General of the Army Douglas MacArthur once so eloquently said to the assembled Cadets of West Point:

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory?

Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world's noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless.

His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me; or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy's breast.

But when I think of his patience in adversity of his courage under fire and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements.

In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand camp fires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people.

From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage. As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the first World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through the mire of shell-pocked roads to form grimly for the attack, bule-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died, unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory.

Always for them: Duty, honor, country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth. And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts, those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms, the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails, the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished, the deadly pestilence of tropical disease, the horror of stricken areas of war.
Swift and Sure Attack

Their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory - always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men, reverently following your password of duty, honor, country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral law and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the things that are right and its restraints are from the things that are wrong. The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training--sacrifice. In battle, and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when He created man in His own image. No physical courage and no greater strength can take the place of the divine help which alone can sustain him. However hard the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.