TODAY, the 232nd anniversary of the day our Declaration of Independence rang out in
, we rightly honor the men who debated and signed the document: Jefferson, Adams,
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
the year before. Our Founding Fathers would have become hopeless fugitives, had determined soldiers not stood by Gen.
– from the disaster on Long Island, through the misery of Valley Forge and on to
Then what would our Constitution have availed us, had another generation of patriots not filled the ranks at Chippewa,
? 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
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
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
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
and sent to
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
, 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
, 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
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
? 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
, 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.