Memorial Day is a time for reflecting on the sacrifices made by brave American servicemen in wars past and present. We remember the heroes of Saratoga, Gettysburg, the Marne, Normandy, Inchon, Khe Sanh, Desert Storm, and other battles waged to defend freedom and human rights. We also pay tribute to those Americans who have spent the past decade on the front lines of the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the U.S. military personnel who are now supporting NATO operations in Libya.
Sixty-six years after the Allies secured victory in Europe, it is remarkable how much reliance there is on American forces. U.S. troops are currently protecting 48 million South Koreans from the volatile dictatorship that sits across the DMZ (as they have been since the early 1950s). They are deterring Chinese adventurism throughout East Asia. They are curbing maritime piracy in East Africa. They are maintaining a tenuous peace in the Balkans. They are helping our Latin America allies combat violent drug lords. They are tracking down terrorists in Pakistan, where a team of Navy SEALS recently killed the world’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden. And, of course, they are fighting jihadists and radical militias in Afghanistan and Iraq while trying to safeguard their fragile democratic achievements.
For these efforts, American servicemen deserve the gratitude of freedom-loving peoples everywhere. Beyond their contributions to international security, U.S. troops also play a leading role in humanitarian relief missions across the globe. Indeed, whenever a major natural disaster creates a humanitarian crisis overseas, you can safely bet that American forces will be arriving on the scene in short order to help with recovery. Earlier this year, they swiftly responded to the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan. At the beginning of 2010, they moved quickly to rescue and aid victims of the earthquake that devastated Haiti. They also rescued and aided Pakistani flood victims last summer, just as they assisted Pakistani earthquake victims in 2008 and Asian tsunami victims a few years before that.
America’s status as the preeminent superpower has delivered enormous humanitarian benefits to countries all over the planet. We are the most benevolent and generous superpower in history, a superpower that has promoted democracy, human rights, free markets, and economic growth throughout the world. Over the long haul, this commitment not only serves a moral purpose, but a political purpose as well.
We will need to preserve our global military presence. The security challenges we face are manifold. China is rising and flexing its muscles. North Korea is proliferating deadly weapons and threatening its neighbors. A resurgent Russia is menacing the young democracies of Eastern Europe and the Baltics. Islamic terrorists continue to wreak havoc in the Middle East and beyond. Drug-related violence has exploded in many parts of Latin America.
We don’t know exactly how these challenges will be resolved. But we do know that America’s brave men and women in uniform will continue to be a bulwark of freedom and democracy. On this holiday weekend, let us take the opportunity to express our profound appreciation for all that they do.