I spent Memorial Day at the National Veterans’ Cemetery in Los Angeles, where 86,000 soldiers are buried and remembered now as “fallen heroes.” It is an annual event sponsored by a committee of supporters of the cemetery and veterans. Two days earlier, 2,700 Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts had planted flags beside each grave, 86,000 in all.
I was part of the program with actors Jon Voight, Robert Davi, Robert Forster and Lee Purcell. We read letters written by soldiers who had been in America’s conflicts from the Civil War to Iraq, where they served and sacrificed in America’s battles for freedom. A major general preceded us and quoted famous lines which reminded us that we owe our freedom of the press not to the journalist but to the soldier; our freedom of speech not to the poet but to the soldier; our right to a trial and a jury of our peers not to the lawyer but to the soldier.
Each of us got involuntarily emotional reading our letters. Lee Purcell had lost a much decorated Marine father, which went some way to explaining her reaction. Robert Davi read a letter from a soldier who had been killed and who had written it to his fiancé to be sent to her in the event of his death. My own emotion flowed from thinking about all those 86,000 men who had sacrificed themselves for us and because I had noticed an older woman in the first row whose facial sorrows made it clear that she had lost one she loved.
There were maybe three or four hundred veterans and their families who had come to the tribute. Several people attending remarked to me how small the circle of patriots was becoming. I thought this was perhaps a venue problem: Los Angeles was not the country. But I did reflect on the fact that the L.A. schools had not participated, neither the universities (UCLA’s campus is adjacent to the cemetery), nor the public schools which had turned out tens of thousands of youngsters to protest America’s borders and sovereignty the previous year.
Robert Davi drew applause from the gathering when he reflected on the fact that a crowd of major Hollywood stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz among them, had come out to celebrate Earth Day but not to remember the fallen heroes. He expressed the hope that next year it would be different.
The left is always sensitive when anyone raises the issue of its patriotism. For the record I have several liberal friends who are true patriots. But there is a reason that Memorial Day is not a holiday honored by the left, not this year nor any I can remember. The left has opposed America’s wars for freedom over the last 60 years, wars fought against totalitarian tyrannies in Korea and Vietnam and the Persian Gulf and Iraq. If you oppose the wars your country fights so consistently and over so long a period of time, it eventually means you have lost faith in your country's cause and can no longer think of the men and women who are buried in cemeteries such as this one as heroes who have fallen to keep us free.