America has always had heroes. The USS Arizona sits in Pearl Harbor as a reminder of the thousands who died in defense of America. The boys of Iwo Jima are memorialized with the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington DC was spearheaded by General Ray Davis who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading the rescue of the marines surrounded at the Chosin Reservoir in that war.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial helped heal many wounds of those who were spat upon and insulted just for obeying orders. While the greatest generation was celebrated, theirs was the silent generation. Their memories are of never wearing a uniform off base. Never talking about the war. Never raising the memory of friends who didn’t return.
Today’s soldiers are celebrated and thanked. During the long years of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan there has been much debate about the conduct of the war and even the purpose of the war. What has not been questioned was the commitment and bravery of our troops.
Everyone who has been in an airport in the last decade has seen citizens walk up to and thank men and women in uniform. Many times, while walking through the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, I have heard applause break out as a group of soldiers walked through the area. That is how it should be.
But none of the wartime images is more sharply etched than the heroic images of policemen and firemen rushing into two burning skyscrapers on 9/11 as tens of thousands of Americans were fleeing in abject terror.
Some were helping control the flow of those exiting and helping those needing assistance. Others were loading stretchers and carrying injured people to safety. Still others were running into those buildings and up those staircases with hundreds of pounds of hoses on their backs.
And then they raised the America flag in the burning rubble reminding us that we will survive this. We are Americans.
For a long time after that I saw FDNY hats in some of the quietest parts of foreign lands. The respect for our first responders was rekindled by images that just won’t go away.
I don’t know when it started to be cool to disrespect the very public servants who commit their lives to our safety. I don’t know why. I only know that it is a “learned” habit that can only bring harm to a free society.
It is learned in a dysfunctional environment that is fed by poor citizenship and worse public leadership.
The last few months of heartache in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island are individual tragedies that tore apart families in both instances. They deserve our sympathy and prayers. They do not deserve to be used by public figures to incite emotion.
In Ferguson an incompetent governor rushed to the scene to hold a press conference. Al Sharpton, who shows up at these events like a bad smell, incited a violent response to a narrative that was proven to be a lie. When the governor failed to send the National Guard to the scene as he had promised, the violence that Sharpton encouraged flourished.
The tragedy on Staten Island brought out Sharpton again. Mayor Bill de Blasio joined him to wallow in the muck. They stood mute while protestors marched to a chant: “What to we want? Dead Cops! When do we want it? Now!” To no one’s surprise we got dead cops.
There is another memorial in Washington DC to heroism. It is the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on E Street N.W. It features two 304-foot-long blue-gray marble walls. Carved on these walls are the names of more than 20,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty. We now have two more names to add to that roster.
I doubt that either de Blasio or Sharpton will have the decency to visit that memorial and say a prayer of thanks for the sacrifices so many made for us, but they will be forced to live with their choices.
Mayor de Blasio ought to be impeached for incompetence or stupidity. Take your pick.
Al Sharpton ought to be imprisoned for inciting riots or evading taxes. Take your pick.
For those of us on the sidelines, just as we thank our soldiers who protect us from foreign threats, so should we pause to thank our police officers for the sacrifices that they make every day to keep our communities safe.
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