Memorial Day 2009

John McCain grew up the son and grandson of bona fide war heroes. In Faith of My Fathers (written with Mark Salter), McCain reveals that each had a rebellious streak and a skeleton or two in the closet. McCain notes that in the closing days of World War II his grandfather was relieved of his command. Although his father suffered no such professional disgrace, McCain reveals that he was an alcoholic.

There was never any question that McCain would follow in the footsteps of his illustrious forebears. In his memoir, McCain powerfully conveys the suffocating sense of a preordained life. McCain acts out his resentment at the Naval Academy, barely escaping expulsion while graduating fifth from the bottom of his class. His father, however, was untroubled: “I believe he assumed that, like him, I would be absorbed into the traditions of the place whether I wished to or not, and that when the time arrived for me to face a real test of character, I would not disappoint him.”

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The McCain family tradition continues. McCain’s youngest son, Jimmy, is serving as a corporal in the Marines. He returned from service in Iraq in February 2008. This past Friday John S. McCain IV was graduated from the Naval Academy. One can feel the pride swelling out of the New York Times photo above.

The West Point class of 2009 was graduated on Saturday. Included among the graduating class is Robert Bradford Miner II. Brad Miner, his proud father, reflects on the accompanying ceremonies in “A prayer for soldiers.” Miner concludes: “God bless all our honored dead, and also our newly minted soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen on this Memorial Day.”

As for the new heroes of Afghanistan and Iraq, Jeff Emanuel rightly notes: “Despite taking place in the Information Age, very few of the heroic exploits of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines since September 11, 2001, have made their way into the living rooms of ordinary Americans — at least in any lasting way.” Emanuel recalls the sacrifices of Michael Murphy, Jason Dunham, Ross McGinnis and Jason Cunningham.

Bill Bennett and John Cribb reflect on heroes new and old who gave their lives: “More than 1.3 million Americans have died during wars. They and all who have served in American uniforms hold a revered place in history. Through their sacrifice, the United States has liberated more people from tyranny than any other nation.” Remembering them, they write, is our duty.

in his reflections on Memorial Day 2007, Peter Collier calculated the price of our neglect of the heroes of America’s freedom: “We impoverish ourselves by shunting these heroes and their experiences to the back pages of our national consciousness. Their stories are not just boys’ adventure tales writ large. They are a kind of moral instruction. They remind of something we’ve heard many times before but is worth repeating on a wartime Memorial Day when we’re uncertain about what we celebrate. We’re the land of the free for one reason only: We’re also the home of the brave.”

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