A message on this Memorial Day

Our nation today stops to celebrate the memory of all those who sacrificed for this great nation, and especially those who sacrificed all. We remember the bravery from Valley Forge to Hamburger Hill to the deserts of Afghanistan. We remember generations of young men and women who left the comforts and love of home and family to step into the abyss of the unknown because they knew it was their duty to their country.

But it wasn’t the soil beneath their feet they were fighting to keep safe, or some words written long ago, or a red, white and blue flag. They were fighting for a belief. A belief shared by every American. A belief ingrained in every person lucky enough to be born here and a belief that draws others to our shores in search of it. It’s not a belief that can be summed up in a few words or belief that is expressed the same by everyone, but it’s a belief that has a common thread in every American.

It’s the belief that what makes this country great, really great, is us. It’s Americans. There is nothing like us in the world. We are the first to answer the call when disaster strikes whether it’s Baby Jessica down the well or two buildings collapsing in New York City. Whether it’s a deadly tsunami in some faraway place or two young Americans on a train stopping a terrorist. We are the pilot landing a plane on the Hudson; we are the hundreds of Americans who stopped their daily lives to help. We are the firefighters who ran in when others were running out. It’s the belief that a hero lies in all of us. Americans are the first to act. No one tells us to perform these acts of bravery and kindness, its part of the belief, the belief that holds us all together and makes us special, makes us Americans.

We have come from all over the globe; be it yesterday or 200 years ago, but once we arrived we became part of that belief system. It is in our collective American DNA. It is not unique to the Irish immigrant or the Mexican, the Polish immigrant or the Dutch. It’s not unique to the Jews or the Mormons. It’s unique to Americans. It is what has been melting in the pot all these years.

So when the call of duty comes to defend that belief we answer it. Male, female, rich, poor, Irish, Italian, Syrian, black, white or brown, we rise together as a force, a force of Americans. We become heroes. We fight to keep that belief in all Americans alive. That is what the ultimate sacrifice is about. It’s that belief that we are greater than the sum of our parts. It’s not something we talk about or brag about, it’s just there, like air. We just take it for granted. But others see it, others count on it. In any disaster that strikes, no matter where, you will hear it said it was the Americans that took action first. It is in our DNA. Americans seem to carry a little John Wayne in them at all times.

So today when we stop to honor those brave Americans that fought to keep that belief alive, let’s honor them by making sure we live up to their expectations. Our behavior of late has tarnished that sacrifice given so freely by other Americans. Let us not be driven asunder by our adversaries and enemies who love nothing more than to see Americans doubting that belief and doubting other Americans, who see the discourse as a victory. We must somehow find a way to have our differences without letting it destroy our belief in each other. The belief that the color of your skin or the religion you choose to practice won’t stop us from being there when the call comes. That we will still stand together whether it’s to rescue a baby in a well or our neighbors from a burning house. Would any of us deny that belief, that instinct to act, because that baby or those neighbors didn’t look or think like us? I doubt it because I still believe in us.

So today, let us honor the sacrifices of our brave soldiers regardless of race, creed or color, by being what we belief ourselves to be, heroes waiting for the call. A country that stands united that no one can divide.