|- U.S. Air Force C-130 Angel Flight -|
"Leave No Man Behind" is a powerful military code of honor, as old as warfare itself. Few nations have practiced the code as impressively as the United States. In part because the United States has been at war for 222 out of its 240 years of existence. That's 92% of the time. 102 wars, with 93 victories, 4 defeats, and 5 stalemates. I'm not exactly sure how you categorize a civil war as a "victory", with the largest single number of American casualties ever - just under half a million. Be that as it may, wars have claimed the lives of 1.1 million Americans. And that number is just scratching the surface of the impact they have had on the ones who did not die in battle.
Diagnosing how many of those 102 wars could have been avoided without sacrificing freedom may very well raise an eyebrow or two. But it does nothing to honor the memory of the soldiers who bravely fought in a conflict they were told was a matter of freedom's life or death. Memorial Day is not a day for "what if's", political grandstanding, or second-guessing. It is one day out of a year where we are asked to remember those who have died for a cause that a majority of citizens has sanctioned - explicitly or in silence.
It must be surreal for a soldier to come home and be left behind in ways that are just as maddening as the insanity of war. Especially a soldier who personally experienced the code of Leave No Man Behind. I cannot fully understand that, because I have not experienced it. Yet empathy is at the core of Leave No Man Behind. Empathy is not about putting yourself in shoes that may be too large for you to fit in. At its core, empathy is about respect. Respect for men and women who gave their lives in battle grounds so that we can argue over claims to the moral grounds.
Not leaving a man behind starts with respect. Not the empty flag-waving kind, as much as symbols can have a deeper meaning. Not the judgmental kind, as partially right as the judgment may be. It starts with respect for what a soldier has been through, and for anyone who was murdered in the name of tyranny. On Memorial Day, respect for those who left home as brave mortal warriors and came back on the wings of an angel.