Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Service and Sacrifice: What We Owe in Return

 

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” —Abraham Lincoln

Next week will mark the 156th anniversary of the Gettysburg address. The speech was not about the fallen but about the moral obligation their sacrifice creates for the living. In the unique case of the United States of America, soldiers fight for an ideal and for a nation based on that ideal. Our nation is not a mere emergent property of race, ethnic faction, religion, and/or territorial accident. The existence of our nation is a continuous conscious choice that must be renewed. Lincoln tells us to be the nation that was worth dying for. We must live in justice and freedom with the courage of imagination and innovation that is our national character.

The Union troops at Gettysburg had endured two years or terrible generalship, sequential defeats, and a treacherous political climate. Many in the North openly asked why risk dying for blacks? Why fight to remain in a union with those God-rotting Southerners? Nevertheless, the Army of the Potomac rallied to a principled vision of this nation. They continued a tradition going back to the Revolution in which the honor, steadfastness, loyalty, accomplishment, and commitment of American soldiers invariably greatly exceeds that of their elected leaders.

Contrary to a lot of opinions issued at the time we ended in the draft in 1973, our current military has more genuine diversity than any college campus, more professionalism and integrity than any other segment of American life and a commitment to duty and excellence that none of our elected leaders in recent memory have been worthy to command. While government, media, business, academia and even the sciences fall into disrepute, our military rises in public esteem because we can still see the best of ourselves in those young people and know that the American project is still alive and sustainable. The claim on our consciences by the fallen is as strong or stronger than ever.

I confess that have mixed feelings whenever I hear someone say “thank you for your service!” to a uniformed American. It might be a twinge of jealousy because in 1972-75 when I was in uniform, I was called “baby-killer” more than once and can’t recall anyone ever thanking me in the way that is common now. Also, those now-common ‘thank you’s’ often sound a bit breezy as if the speaker does not grasp the full moral weight of the debt of gratitude that Lincoln articulated. Nevertheless, it is a positive thing to affirm honor, duty, and the presumptive willingness to assume the risk and to give the full measure. It is good that we do feel a common bond with each other when we hear that gratitude expressed to one of our soldiers.

The curse of our age is the wave of morally stunted anti-Lincolns who deny the goodness of our national inheritance and would thus have us believe that everyone who ever who the uniform was in service to evil or, at best, a sucker. They are conducting an ongoing attack on what Lincoln recognized as the moral core of our nation, and they make a conscious effort to dissolve the bonds to one another and to those who went before. What Lincoln commended to us, a shared sense of obligation to build great lives in a great nation filled with mutual respect for the project that is our shared inheritance is a good place to stand in opposition to the purveyors of rot. We all need to spend more time there.

Published in Group Writing
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 7 comments.

  1. Susan Quinn Contributor

    What a beautiful post, Old Bathos. I’m moved by your call for us to realize that we must re-commit to this country, over and over again, against those who would destroy our inheritance. Thank you.

    • #1
    • November 15, 2019, at 6:09 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    Old Bathos: The curse of our age is the wave of morally-stunted anti-Lincolns who deny the goodness of our national inheritance and would thus have us believe that everyone who ever who the uniform was in service to evil or, at best, a sucker.

    Society has a raised a generation that is anti-American and the uniform represents some kind of colonial oppression. In a time of great prosperity there is a great lack of gratitude.

    Old Bathos, thank you for your service.

    • #2
    • November 15, 2019, at 6:15 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  3. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Old Bathos: What Lincoln commended to us, a shared sense of obligation to build great lives in a great nation filled with mutual respect for the project that is our shared inheritance is a good place to stand in opposition to the purveyors of rot.

    This is beautiful. 

    If it fits with anyone’s plans over the next few weeks, one of only five handwritten copies of the Gettysburg Address will be on display at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL until December 2. If you have never been to the museum, it is well worth the trip.

    • #3
    • November 15, 2019, at 6:28 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  4. Rodin Member

    The immortal words of Lincoln come to us from a time of great national peril. Our relative peace and prosperity make us complacent about the system that enables us to have it. Another great quote, from Ronald Reagan, echoes it:

    “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

    Although our freedoms are most tangibly secured by our great military, both Lincoln and Reagan remind us that it is not just secured by arms but by votes and petitions, by training of each subsequent generation of its fragility. Self-government demands something of us all, lest government be passed to the few over the many.

    • #4
    • November 15, 2019, at 7:31 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  5. Jeff Giambrone Coolidge

    “In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls. This is the great reward of service to live far out and on in the life of others this is the mystery of the Christ, – to give life’s best for such high sake that it shall be found again unto life eternal.”

    • Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, speaking at the dedication of the Maine Monuments at Gettysburg, October 3, 1889
    • #5
    • November 15, 2019, at 8:48 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  6. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos Post author

    Jeff Giambrone (View Comment):

    “In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls. This is the great reward of service to live far out and on in the life of others this is the mystery of the Christ, – to give life’s best for such high sake that it shall be found again unto life eternal.”

    • Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, speaking at the dedication of the Maine Monuments at Gettysburg, October 3, 1889

    Good thing that Chamberlain was a lot more pithy when he gave the order to charge at Little Round Top. A couple of more paragraphs and Law’s men might have been on top of them.

    • #6
    • November 15, 2019, at 9:28 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Old Bathos:

    The curse of our age is the wave of morally stunted anti-Lincolns who deny the goodness of our national inheritance and would thus have us believe that everyone who ever who the uniform was in service to evil or, at best, a sucker. They are conducting an ongoing attack on what Lincoln recognized as the moral core of our nation, and they make a conscious effort to dissolve the bonds to one another and to those who went before. What Lincoln commended to us, a shared sense of obligation to build great lives in a great nation filled with mutual respect for the project that is our shared inheritance is a good place to stand in opposition to the purveyors of rot. We all need to spend more time there.

    Yes. It seems to me that a credible positive message, lived out, is ultimately more attractive that ugliness and selective cynicism. This post is part of the November theme, “Service.” There is one late opening, the 30th, first come first seated!

     

    • #7
    • November 22, 2019, at 5:06 PM PST
    • 1 like