TODAY, the 232nd anniversary of the day our Declaration of Independence rang out in

Philadelphia

, we rightly honor the men who debated and signed the document: Jefferson, Adams,

Franklin

and their colleagues. Yet, after that glorious declaration was signed in ink, it had to be counter-signed in blood.

Without men willing to take up arms and fight for the freedoms the Founding Fathers asserted, the words themselves would have secured us nothing.

It took courage to affix a signature to the Declaration. But it had taken another kind of courage entirely to stand at

Lexington

and

Concord

the year before. Our Founding Fathers would have become hopeless fugitives, had determined soldiers not stood by Gen.

Washington

– from the disaster on Long Island, through the misery of Valley Forge and on to

Yorktown

.

Then what would our Constitution have availed us, had another generation of patriots not filled the ranks at Chippewa,

Ft.

McHenry

and

New Orleans

? What good would Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation have done without an army in Union blue?

FDR’s "Four Freedoms" would have been laughable, had 10 million American men and women refused to put on their uniforms. President Ronald Reagan’s call, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" would’ve been absurd, had still more generations of our soldiers not stood watch on the

Rhine

.

Unless etched in the blood of patriots, noble words evaporate. Yet, for all too many Americans today, words have become a substitute for sacrifice. We vow that our fallen heroes shall not be forgotten. Then we forget them.

A painful illustration of how skewed our values have grown was last month’s orgy of media self-adoration commemorating a good, but hardly courageous, journalist, Tim Russert.

I’m sorry for Russert’s family, but it was appalling to witness the media’s we-love-us carnival. Not since President Reagan’s funeral had

Washington

so honored one of our citizens.

Was Russert’s passing truly more deserving of commemoration than the loss of service members awarded posthumous Medals of Honor? Had he sacrificed more than those, living and dead, who earned Navy Crosses, Distinguished Service Crosses or Silver Stars in combat?

The only recent instances when the media devoted remotely as much attention to individuals in uniform were the investigation into Spec. Pat Tillman’s death, a military botch-up, and the media-amplified Abu Ghraib affair, when journalists gleefully maligned all those who serve over the misdeeds of six reservists.

Newspapers run rows of photographs of fallen service members, pretending to honor their sacrifices, but really to make

Iraq

seem a costly failure. The images of our dead are used and then discarded by editors whose vanity and ambition would’ve shamed a decadent Roman emperor.

So, on this Fourth of July, let me briefly honor just one of those who fell so journalists would remain free to belittle his sacrifice:

Second Lt. Peter Burks graduated from Texas A&M, then chose to join the US Army. Commissioned through

Officer

Candidate

School

and sent to

Iraq

as a combat platoon leader, he told his parents his goal was to bring his soldiers safely home. Quietly religious and dutiful, Burks was proud to serve.

On Nov. 14, 2007, as the lieutenant led his men back to their base at the end of a patrol in

Baghdad

, a massive Iranian-made bomb struck his vehicle. Two of his soldiers were wounded. Standing upright in a hatch to direct his unit, Burks was struck in the head by shrapnel and died.

His story was one of many, notched down as just one more casualty by the press. But the Burks family lives in

Texas

, a long way from DC (in more ways than just distance). Instead of blaming our government, they honored their son’s service even as they mourned him.

His relatives remembered how Lt. Burks kept asking them to send goodies for his troops – not all of whom had a strong family supporting them. In his honor, they set up the Peter Burks Unsung Heroes Fund, literally a mom-and-pop effort to support those who serve.

What did their homespun effort accomplish? Nothing that would impress prize-hunting journalists. But they shipped over three tons of snack food and recreational materials to their son’s comrades.

So many donations flooded in that the unit chaplain in

Iraq

set up "Burks Country Store." Everything on the shelves is free for soldiers.

Remember how much we heard about Cindy Sheehan a few years ago, as she cursed the government for the loss of her volunteer son in

Iraq

? Why haven’t we heard about the Burks? Or about the many other families and friends of our troops who donate their time, goods and hard-earned money to say Thank you! to those who serve?

This Fourth of July, two nations will take a holiday: an intelligentsia that despises, mocks or pities the "losers" in uniform – and the other

America

, which didn’t go to Harvard, but whose sons and daughters insure that We, the People, continue to live in freedom.

I don’t think Lt. Burks would want you to mourn him at your holiday barbecue. I’d bet he’d rather have you enjoy everything his sacrifice preserved.

By Ralph Peters’

his new book, "Looking For Trouble," was published today.

Comments

  1. Major P, thanks for that. I am especially proud that the excerpt from the book was about a fellow Aggie and Texan. I too wish those who give their lives for us received the recognition and thanks that they deserve. We owe them and their families so much.
    I wish all who serve were recognized and appreciated for all you do. You guys don’t do it for the recognition, but you damn well deserve it. You have my gratitude, my respect and my prayers for your safety.
    Susie

  2. This was a wonderful post. I’m thankful for the freedom of press – – so to speak — that we have in this country. Thank goodness people like Ralph Peters can report on, gather the stories that are counter to the mainstream.
    Hope you all had a wonderful July 4th.

  3. I realized after I posted that the article was actually from a Ralph Peters column in the NY Post, not his book. I’m always confused. 🙂
    Susie

  4. I make it a point to read the DoD reports because I WANT to know the names of the Heroes who have paid the ultimate price for our Freedom. I will not forget them.
    Thank you, Major and your Marines. Many of us love you way more than Tim Russert.

  5. I feel your anger and I sympathize with it.
    One thing thing though – we who served gave of ourselves to ensure that these people could believe and act as they do. I find that it helps me to remember that.
    If the media and much of populous had served in the military, had bloodied their hands and hearts as we have done, they couldn’t speak or act as they do. But that would mean we had been defeated. We served – or currently serve – so that others need not do so. We protect America and ensure that Americans have the freedom to be a wise or stupid as they choose to be.
    Every time these people decry what we do and have done they prove that we’ve done our jobs and done them well.
    Semper Fidelis and Fair Winds and Following Seas.

  6. Thanks, Major.
    Thanks to all the servicemembers who so willingly sacrificed their lives so we could enjoy the freedoms that so many of us take for granted.
    Cat

  7. First thank you for your service to make my life free! It is very frustrating because I know first hand many families say what soldiers see is nothing like what they hear at home.
    I too am very proud of Lt Burks and his family for standing up for the brave men and women that do the hard work every day!

  8. There is a tradition at Texas A&M observed annually on April 21 called Muster to honor Aggies who have passed during the previous year. Once you have attended A&M you become part of a family, not unlike all those who have served in the Marine Corps. Lt Burk’s family is an wonderful example of an Aggie family coming together to honor the fallen, by remembering those that must carry on. Our citizens need to remember that freedom isn’t free, it was bought with the sacrifice and blood of our bravest. We should all do our part to honor Lt Burk, his family, all that serve, and those that have fallen in service to our nation. We can do this by telling a Veteran, a current service member, or a member of their family; Thank You! Ask them; What can we do for you, you have done so much for us!

  9. Major Pain
    First thank you for sharing the story of Lt. Burk and and his family reaction to his ‘price’ for the Freedom that I have today.
    Next I did NOT participate in the Russet feeding-frenzie. I very rarely listen to what the journalist are beating their gums about anymore because I find most of it is so lop-sidded that they would sink if they were ships at sea.
    Besides….I had to gather up the items for the boxes for my Marines that I support, write a few letters to those Marines, make the mad dash to the P.O. to get those things on the way and of course catch up on the happenings in Iraq and Afganistan thru the Blogs that I read. So as you can see my time is important if only to me and what I’m doing for those who guard me from the ‘Winds of Hell’.
    My Prayers and Thank-you to those who face the ‘Winds of Hell’ on a daily bases with honor, courage and commitment.

  10. Dear Major Pain,
    Thanks for your amazing blog! I think many of us our guilty of forgetting how are freedom was originally paid for by our founding fathers. Many are unaware of how many were killed, houses burned after that signing on July 4th. I am truly inspired by men like George Washington. I am equally inspired by the men and women who have defended and are currently defending our country today. I was saddened that around the time of Russerts death they put off the airing of the soldiers that are sacrificing everything for our freedom. I am proud to support our troops and I thank God for the countless volunteers that leave their families to go off to many foreign lands without any guarantees of return. That price can never be repaid. Thank you!

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