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Common Defense Richard Falknor on 30 May 2011 03:14 pm

Memorial Day 2011: Honoring A Fading History?

As political correctness (a.k.a. cultural Marxism) envelops public-school civic and history curricula, after having captured most of the universities and much of the media, the stories of America’s wartime heroes and those who laid down their lives for the Republic fade.

Consequently Memorial Day 2011 is not only a good time to honor the fallen, but also to spotlight the service of all U.S. veterans — as well as the importance of once again teaching military history in our schools.

Veterans: The Numbers

In 2010, the United States had an estimated 22.7 million living U.S. veterans out of an estimated 2010 adult population of  over 235,000,000.

But the number of veterans in the Congress continues to decline. The Congressional Research Service reports

“At the beginning of the 112th Congress, there were 118 Members (21.8% of the total membership)who had served or were serving in the military, 2 fewer than at the end of the 111th Congress, and 8 fewer than in the 110th Congress.” . . . . “. . . “[T]here were 298 veterans (240 Representatives, 58 Senators) in the 96th Congress (1979-1981); and 398 veterans (329 Representatives, 69 Senators) in the 91st Congress (1969-1971).”

One Virginia candidate for the state senate, however, emailed us yesterday a story of his fellow Marine’s heroism in the Vietnam war.

Getting The Stories of Our Veterans Back in the Public Arena

The Telegraph (London) has a splendid and regular  chronicle of the achievements of British and other distinguished soldiers through their finely written and well researched obituary section.

No one in the U.S. media does anything comparable among general interest publications. Consequently the military accomplishments of so many Americans are likely to remain invisible in today’s culture.

Moreover the achievements of American soldiers are simply not widely available as models of conduct for young American men and women.

Here is a brief selection of military obituaries from The Telegraph. Notice those who fought in the same theaters as U.S. fighting men and women: Burma, New Guinea, Korea, and of course western Europe.

Apparently our ruling-class culture discourages similar US military obituaries — chronicling what must be many parallel US exploits — from appearing routinely in our publications.

Restoring Military History to Schools and Colleges

Victor Davis Hanson explains the perils of not studying military history in his “Why Study War?” (City Journal Summer 2007)

Military history teaches us about honor, sacrifice, and the inevitability of conflict.

Try explaining to a college student that Tet was an American military victory. You’ll provoke not a counterargument—let alone an assent—but a blank stare: Who or what was Tet? Doing interviews about the recent hit movie 300, I encountered similar bewilderment from listeners and hosts. Not only did most of them not know who the 300 were or what Thermopylae was; they seemed clueless about the Persian Wars altogether.

It’s no surprise that civilian Americans tend to lack a basic understanding of military matters. Even when I was a graduate student, 30-some years ago, military history—understood broadly as the investigation of why one side wins and another loses a war, and encompassing reflections on magisterial or foolish generalship, technological stagnation or breakthrough, and the roles of discipline, bravery, national will, and culture in determining a conflict’s outcome and its consequences—had already become unfashionable on campus. Today, universities are even less receptive to the subject.”

Hanson goes to the heart of the matter —

” . . . [D]emocratic citizenship requires knowledge of war — and now, in the age of weapons of mass annihilation, more than ever.”

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