In the first part are those who agree to defend our country. They know the risks, which often involve death, but they serve because they are asked.
The second part of this covenant is twofold. The Nation agrees never to forget their sacrifice. And leaders ensure that the cause they ask others to fight is just.
This covenant is a simple one, unwritten and unspoken.
While few of us who have served in war can make clear the reasons we did, most would agree with this sacred pact.
Sometimes the reasons for war are not thought out or are just plain wrong; in some cases, war is fought for our very survival.
War is complex. Most who have served have a fatalism that keeps them sane. There is a bullet with your name on it and when- or if -it gets you is your destiny. Others recall both the horrors they witnessed and the exhilaration they felt.
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “We have shared the incommunicable experience in war. We have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to the top. In our youths, our hearts were touched with fire.”
As soldiers or sailors or airmen, we also fought for our comrades…and often enough this was more important to us on a basic level than what others claimed was important, because often it was not. Yet, yet it was enough to fight and even die for your friends.
What was it that General Patton said: Your job is not to die for your country, but to make the other poor SOB die for his!
I still have today comrades that I knew. One is a red neck from Alabama. We have little in common except that we still have a bond of blood forty years after our return from overseas. He and I would do anything to help the other.
Dwight Eisenhower once said that men acquainted with the battlefield will not be found among the numbers that glibly talk of another war.
On this Memorial Day, let us remind our leaders that this covenant between those who served and the Nation is best reviewed in all part.
Milwaukee businessman Bob Chernow was a volunteer during the Vietnam War and was awarded the Bronze Star. He helped run the Milwaukee Veterans Stand Down for Homeless Vets as its first chair.