On this Memorial Day, I’m proud to live in country that has given breath to such great men. “We the People” need to remember our dead—not only to pay our debts to the past but to create a future for citizens who, when duty calls, rise and sadly fall in our common defense. Tweet
It’s right and good that we say to those who serve and sacrifice: “Thank you for your service.” Like “I am sorry for your loss,” they are clusters of words that get us through hard occasions. They provide crucial consolation to the giver and receiver of the message—which is important.
But what exactly is that loss? What is a soldier’s courage? What is a man? What is it to be an American? What do we owe the dead, the wounded, those who were shot at and missed? Sam Elliott’s stand-out gift is that is he can summon the voice of the American male. He captures the humble, egalitarian, liberty-loving spirit that is “We the People.” (Scroll up and listen.)
Sam Elliott’s stand-out gift is that is he can summon the voice of the American male. He captures the humble, egalitarian, liberty-loving spirit that is “We the People.”
The author of the words to which Elliott gives resonance is Sergeant Ray Lambert. The Sergeant answers these essential, existential questions in this letter from a living soldier honoring his dead and wounded brothers-in-arms, giving a modest, matter-of-fact expression of the ultimate sacrifice made by a few for those who did not have to serve and sacrifice.
I’m proud to live in country that has given breath to such great men, on this Memorial Day. “We the People” need to remember our dead—not only to pay our debts to the past but to create a future for citizens who, when duty calls, rise and sadly fall in our common defense.
Sergeant Lambert is an American Hero whose words remind us of those who were just as heroic but did not survive to write or have their story read. Of the 31 men who jumped out into the cold waters at Normandy with him, only seven survived. The odds of war are terrible.
Sergeant Lambert’s words do not simply honor them; they ennoble us by delivering a Saving Private Ryan, first-hand account of the madness that is war and heroic acts of those who went sent into Hell to do their American best. His letter, even without Elliott’s voice, captures the red water and sand of Normandy as well as Spielberg. Scars and consequence of war ought to be shared.
What is to be the future of fallen or wounded soldiers’ wives and children?
To those who say reflectively that our government should do more, I say, “of course.” But think about this: it’s good and ennobling that our government leaves some space for its citizens to come to together and say (but also show), “Thank you for your service.”
If you are moved to do something, here are three charities—Wounded Warriors, Tunnels to Towers and Bugles Across America—that walk our thankful talk and could do more with more.
God Bless America—and her sons who fight in her defense so others don’t have to. And God Bless Sergeant Ray Lambert, who just died in April 2021 at a well-deserved, ripe old age of 100.
With a heavy and proud heard, to him and so many others, I say proudly, “Thank you for your service.”