Thankfully we still have brave few to man the ramparts against evil
Thirty years ago, I commanded an Armored Cavalry Troop in Europe. We patrolled the border with East Germany. It was a sobering experience and it brought me face to face with evil.
Looking across a border, strung with multiple fences topped with razor-wire, interspersed with a plowed “dead zone” and minefields, it was not hard to understand that something was desperately wrong with their system. The fence wasn’t designed to keep us out; it was meant to keep their own people in. Yet, the draw of freedom was strong enough to motivate people to risk their lives to escape that oppression.
During the Cold War, hundreds of thousands of American military personnel stood as a trip-wire to what at the time seemed like a very real possibility that Soviet forces would invade the West. We had been to the precipice before during the Cuban Missile Crisis. For decades, we guarded the frontier. In fact, I commanded the same border camp my father did three decades before.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. At that time, I was stationed thousands of miles away. Having known the people, I could only imagine what they felt at that time. As the Soviet Empire collapsed and the East Bloc countries broke free, a new spirit emerged. I could not help but feel we had won the war.
I had a son on the way and I believed that he would grow up in as safer world. Their generation deserved more and my generation’s efforts had made that a reality. I have sadly come to find that it was a naive notion.
Within two years, we were at war with an Iraqi tyrant in Kuwait. The “New World Order” devolved into chaos. One crisis after another marched across the globe. From the Balkans to Somalia, malevolence was resurgent.
The attacks of 9/11 reminded us that the barbarians are always at the gate. We sent our soldiers back out to the fringes of the empire in Afghanistan and Iraq to protect our civilization.
Now, the absolute evil that has shown its utter fury in the manifestation of the so called “Islamic State” rivals the worst that the Nazis unleashed in the last century. America is forced to lead yet another coalition to confront the threat.
So it is with each generation. This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War I. In fact, Veterans Day started out commemorating Armistice Day marking the end of that conflict. Our returning “doughboys” from the Great War must have thought they had beaten back the savages. Theirs was the war to end all wars. It did not.
In just over two decades, Hitler had brought the free world to its knees. Pearl Harbor reminded us the enemy was literally at our shores. It took the “Greatest Generation” to restore stability. Surely, they must have thought that their sacrifices had truly made the world safe for democracy. It did not.
The reality is there will always be evil in the world. It is a constant battle to keep it from overwhelming the civilized world. The savages will always be hammering on freedom’s door. The security of each group is dependent upon the exertions of an earlier one. The next generation will never be safe without the sacrifices of the previous.
Therein lies the lesson. Each period of calm is but a lull before the next storm. Suffering will never stop. Our guard can never be put down.
We should always be thankful for the blessing bestowed upon us by the sacrifices of our predecessors. Since our founding, a proud few have always stood fast against those who would do us harm. Thankfully, we still have brave men and women to stand that watch.
May God watch over them.