Who Did You Remember This Memorial Day?

This Memorial Day, I remembered my dad, who was an infantry soldier in the United States Army. I also remembered my son-in-law’s mother, Marlice Lubbers, who not only served her country as a WAC, but also died on Memorial Day 2002.

My dad gave 27 years of his life to military service. He served in World War II, in Korea and in Vietnam so his family and the families of others could live in freedom and safety.

And because my Dad was a career soldier, we moved around a lot. I was born in Harrisburg, Pa., but we lived in Fort Riley, Kan.; Avignon, France; Stuttgart, Germany; and then Fort Benning, Ga.—which is how I became a Georgian.

It wasn’t easy. But my Dad served his country because he believed in it. He served his country because he thought it really mattered. He thought a world in which the Nazis dominated or the Soviets dominated would be a horrible world. A world in which America led would be a remarkably better world. Not a perfect world, because people aren’t perfect. If you believe in God, you know how inadequate you are. But a world in which a decent country, of decent people, of all races and all nationalities could pursue happiness in freedom and safety, and could create prosperity like no one has ever seen.

Like so many Americans, my father knew that freedom was not free. More than 40 years ago he took me on a tour of the World War I battlefield at Verdun in France where more than a quarter of a million men died and more than half a million were wounded. And suddenly, as a young man of 15, I realized that without eternal vigilance, without leadership, without courage, and without the willingness to face the facts and find solutions nations can quickly spiral downwards and suffer catastrophic losses and collapse.

Our freedom rests on brave men and women willing to give their lives so we can live in safety.

It is the sacrifice of those who served that we remember and the sacrifices of those men and women who are serving today that we honor when we celebrate Memorial Day.

What the Mainstream Media Won’t Tell You

This past weekend, young men and women risked their lives around the world while the rest us of had a vacation from our jobs. The mainstream media is quick to tell us the bad news about their service, but there is plenty of good news as well.

In my daily radio commentaries, “Winning the Future with Newt Gingrich” (for a list of stations click here) I often try to tell the stories of our servicemen and women that the mainstream media won’t tell—the stories of honor and heroism that, much more than the constant barrage of negativity and bloodshed, capture the character of our armed forces.

One of these stories is that of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith.

Just five days before the fall of Baghdad, Paul Smith was leading three dozen American soldiers when they were ambushed by 100 members of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard.

With his men pinned down, Smith manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop a damaged armored vehicle. He single-handedly mounted a counter attack that killed as many as 50 elite Iraqi troops and allowed his men to scramble to safety. By his actions, Smith saved more than 100 American lives. Tragically, Paul Ray Smith was killed in the firefight.

In a letter he wrote to his parents but never mailed, Paul said that he was prepared to “give all that I am to ensure that all my boys make it home.” For making good on his promise, Paul was posthumously awarded the first Medal of Honor of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Paul Ray Smith is just one of the many heroes who sacrificed their lives to keep us safe. As President Bush said on Memorial Day in 2002, standing before the American cemetery at Normandy: “Our wars have won for us every hour we live in freedom. Our wars have taken from us the men and women we honor today, and every hour of the lifetimes they had hoped to live.”

Let us keep them in our prayers every day.

P.S. The Amnesty Bill passed by the Senate last week is hopeless. The core problem with granting massive amnesty—and make no mistake, that is what it is—to millions is that it cheapens American law. While the bill’s supporters claim to be compassionate toward those here illegally, the prevailing message is loud and clear—American law can be willfully violated without consequence. A tragic irony: The single most important factor to American success, the foundational principle that has attracted millions of freedom seekers to our shores—our rule of law—is the very thing that the Senate wants to sacrifice in the name of compassion. This is not compassion: It is condescension and contempt.

A just and orderly society depends upon laws that are respected. If you have any doubt about that, ask any first-generation immigrant you might know how well respected the laws are in the country they came from. Chances are it was a major factor in why they left.

The failure to enforce our current immigration laws and stop illegal immigration has brought us to where we are now. American businesses routinely ignore the law by hiring workers illegally, and several American cities and two U.S. states prohibit law enforcement from even inquiring about immigration status. We have created a system in which those U.S. businesses that patriotically comply with the law are put at a competitive disadvantage against those unsavory companies that willfully break the law. The Senate Amnesty Bill will only compound the problems of border security and immigration. As I outlined in my paper, “Ending the Dishonesty: The Way Forward on Border Control and Patriotic Immigration,” amnesty is wrong because it rewards the law-breakers and punishes the law-abiding. This backwards approach is simply un-American. We already tried the path of amnesty in 1986. It was a failure. Why do we think that doing more of the same will lead to a different outcome? As Albert Einstein remarked, such a belief is the definition of insanity.