Editorial: There is no greater prize than freedom
We don't generally celebrate coincidences, but we can’t let this Veterans Day pass without connecting it to the celebrations two days ago in Berlin.
It was 20 years ago Monday that the most egregious symbol of post-World War II oppression crumbled amid great fanfare in what was then the partitioned city of East and West Berlin. The celebration that accompanied the Berlin Wall’s destruction in 1989 was a vivid reminder to many in the western hemisphere of just how precious freedom is. For those of us who had come to take freedom for granted, the joy of the East Germans greeting their West German counterparts via newly opened checkpoints was a wake-up call.
Which is why, 20 years later, we are connecting Veterans Day with the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The passage of two decades has not dulled the memories of those who lived under the repressive government that built the wall. Likewise, must we never fail to appreciate the role of America’s armed forces in both breaking the former Soviet empire and in confronting international terrorism, which has emerged as the new enemy in its aftermath.
If you’re tempted to see the Cold War in the abstract, as a pair of superpowers staring each other down, we urge you today to think of the sacrifices of veterans of the wars in Vietnam and Korea. Those conflicts sounded the warning that the United States would not idly allow the spread of communism emanating from the Soviet Union and China.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, America found a new respect and recognition of its military. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on, we’ve come to question the strategy behind them (and, in the case of Iraq, the motive for invasion). As we learned painfully with Vietnam, however, our reservations about U.S. policy must never obstruct our respect and gratitude for those who heed their country’s call to serve.
And as we saw 20 years ago this week when the Berlin Wall came down, there is no greater prize than freedom. We should never fail to appreciate those who defend it.