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  • Writer's pictureL. Darryl Armstrong

Memorial Day Should Be a Day of Honoring Those Who Fought for our Freedoms

It should be a day of remembrance not a day of politics as usual

In 1868, Congress authorized the last Monday of May as Decoration Day, a federal holiday, specifically designed to honors those who have died during military service while serving their country.

As a child, we used Decoration Day as a day when we would gather as a family at the Liberty Cemetery in rural Kentucky and decorate the graves of our departed family members and the graves of every military member that was laid to rest in that cemetery.

Often times, it was a member of my family that would place a plastic wreath on the grave of a Confederate or Union soldier, a WWI, WWII or Korean War casualty. Later, as I grew older, of course, we included those who died in Vietnam. Most of the time these decorations were placed on graves of people that we had no idea who they were. It was done out of respect and it was a tradition and an honor we took very seriously as families in rural America.

That tradition continued through the time that I left home in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War; and even though I never participated in that tradition after I left home, I still recall the serious and honorable nature of it.

Whether we were directly taught it or not, as children it seems to me we assimilated our values of being patriots, of being American citizens with a strong tradition and a unique heritage from what our parents and schools taught us about our country and how it came into existence.

I recall that we recited daily the Pledge of Allegiance. We memorized the Preamble to the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address and the Bill of Rights and we recited them with pride. We stood and sang the Star Spangled Banner with our hands over our hearts and after 911 with tears in our eyes.

Even when I went off to college during the height of the Vietnam conflict, even when our Nation was so divided politically over the war, I proudly wore my ROTC uniform and was honored to be seen as a patriot.

PATRIOT – A person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion. A person who regards himself or herself as a defender, esp. of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.

It seemed to me growing up that if we were to be American citizens that we had to stand up for the principles that our country was founded upon. We had to fight in what we believed in so that maybe others could have what we and they, cherished.

I believed then, as I do now, that good men and women have always fought for what their country believed in because that is what made this country so great.

Further, I believe that we fight for our liberties and to expand those liberties to the oppressed around the world so that we may create a better society, a better world, and a better way of life for everyone.

Perhaps, that is why the Special Forces motto resonated with me more than any others – De oppressor liber – to free the oppressed.

I will always defend John Edwards’ right to his opinion

I feel very blessed to be born an American; to have been raised to be patriotic and to believe in and to defend the freedoms that my country has granted me.

I even believe in the right of presidential candidate John Edwards (D-NC) to call for his protest of the Iraq war on Memorial Day.

However, make no mistake that I am in total agreement with the American Legion’s position on John Edwards’ call for a protest.

The national commander of the American Legion Paul Morin wrote in a column on their website today, “The families of those killed in war should not be led to believe that their loved ones died for a less-than-worthy cause. They died because they took an oath to defend this nation and its Constitution. The sacrifice is the same whether it’s for a ‘popular war’ or an unpopular one. Memorial Day should be an occasion to bring Americans together to honor these heroes.”

However, allow me to explain to you though why I defend John Edwards right to hold his position.

You see the true beliefs of a person, even a politician with the best political and public relations’ advisors, that sport $400 hair cuts and build multi-million dollar mansions while telling us how they want to defend and help the poor, stop the war, yada yada can’t hide their true beliefs for long.

We see them exposed time and time again and it is always through their behaviors and deeds rather than through their carefully crafted and parsed words.

It is as if they never learn from experience, or the experience of those who have gone before them, or they somehow think that their slick ads and their carefully crafted personas and their political doublespeak will somehow keep the public from understanding what they are really all about.

Maybe, they even think that those of us, who would simply think of ourselves as Joe and Jane Six-Pack, are really too stupid or dense to see through all the glitter and see the real person.

After all, politicians for years have thought they could somehow fool the average citizen into supporting their seemingly noble causes and yet I believe we are all much smarter than they give us credit for.

For example, I believe that you can’t say you support our troops and then call for a protest against their mission without being exposed for what you true belief really is. The two concepts are not congruent.

John Edwards is an embarrassment to me as an American citizen. John Edwards voted for this engagement in Iraq but would now like to position himself differently, change the perception of his vote and like Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) will do whatever is necessary to try and become the Democrat nominee in 2008.

Now, before you peg me as a ultra-right wing conservative out to just attack the Democrat candidates bear in mind that I don’t find many of the Republican candidates much better in their approach to securing their nominations, except maybe, they were smart enough to not use Memorial Day as a day of protest.

Politicians in general are not as smart as they think they are. And sadly, I must say as a professional in the field of public relations some of my colleagues, who have become handlers of these people, are not much smarter than the politician.

However, I digress. Simply, I defend John Edwards’ right to do whatever he wants to do this Memorial Day and if I didn’t defend his right I don’t believe I would be a patriot.

Good men and women, many of them my friends and neighbors over the years, have died for – his right to speak out and hold whatever opinion he wishes to hold on the Iraq war, Memorial Day or anything else.

I believe this right to speak our minds, hold different view points, worship, or not, as we choose, and be whatever we choose to be is the basis on which our country was founded.

I believe this even when I vehemently disagree with such positions as John Edwards.

John Edwards’ call for a protest on Memorial Day is not any different than Rosie O’Donnell’s diatribes and chicanery on The View and her attempts to build ratings to promote herself and her career.

John Edwards is attempting to build ratings and support to get elected President.

Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark David, Mark Levin and other conservatives do the exact same thing to build their rating and their careers.

They play to their “base” and John Edwards is playing to his.

I may not agree with their positions. Yet, I will always defend their right to say whatever they wish and whatever they believe.

My analysis as a professional consultant

I predict that by the middle of next week there will be a “clarification,” a “qualification” coming from the John Edwards campaign and that the American public will be accused of “misinterpreting” what Edwards really meant to say and do. They may even blame so low level intern for having started the whole thing.

That misinterpretation, the campaign spokesperson will say, was caused by the media’s misunderstanding and the conservatives “spin” on the real intent of what Edwards was trying to convey.

As a consultant and political observer, how do I assess Edwards’ strategy?

Do I think that his strategy is a good one when it comes to politically positioning himself and building support for his campaign?


The general public and the average voter will not like this strategy and will not be persuaded to join the Edwards’ camp or vote for him based on this stunt.

You don’t take traditional holiday days such as Memorial Day and even remotely imply disrespect for those who have died in service to our country.

Only the extreme left base will support this strategy and Edwards needs more than that faction to win the nomination. There are still plenty of conservative Southern Democrats and moderates to be contended with.

Do I think that this will create a ground swell of nationwide political outpouring of protest against the war in Iraq?


Although we have similarities to the political disgruntlement associated with Vietnam in the 1960s, I believe the vast majority of the American people and those who will vote will continue to support our troops and their mission while finding a way to resolve their differences on this issue.

Do I think that elitist politicians who have been so isolated and insulated from the real world for years like John Edwards, John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama and the multitudes of other politicians that are running for president really care one way or another about our troops and their families, and for that matter about us as citizens?


Our politicians are all self-serving, except for maybe Senator Lindsey Graham, who actually is spending time and service in Iraq but then he is a politician. They have spent enormous amounts of money maintaining their status quo, getting re-elected so they can enjoy the perks and prestige of their offices, and finding ways to better themselves not society and us as American citizens.

Does this sound cynical?

Yes, yet I believe it is a very realistic assessment of how the average person sees our politicians in D.C.

However, I am not all gloom and doom.

What I have come to believe is that our country, and the average citizen, is resilient and strong enough that we survive all this political wrangling, bickering, positioning, and government mis-management.

We will prevail as citizens in spite of it all.

I still believe there is a “Shining City on the Hill,” as President Reagan often said.

I believe that the vast majority of American citizens, who still reside in this shining city, will show their respect for the fallen heroes of our country and will honor them this Memorial Day appropriately.

And, I believe, that the honoring of our heroes will not include participating in John Edwards’ call for a protest.

And I believe that people like John Edwards, John McCain and all the other presidential “wanna bees” could stand some real world advice and counsel and I hope for theier sake and the sake of our great country that they get some.

Until next time.

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