Jerry Petty, Alan Ruddell, John Hanson. You don't know them, but you owe them. They lost their lives in service of our national community. They're the names I must speak at the beginning of my Memorial Day each year -- just as you have your own list of names to say.
Because I never knew Jerry, Alan and John as adults, they are forever young in my mind.
I see Jerry Petty working at the local steel plant in Marshfield, Missouri, where I was a production line welder. I see Alan Ruddell in the backfield of our rather pathetic high school football team. And I see John Hanson over in the offensive left guard position with me in the right guard slot, failing to open up the opponents' lines nearly often enough for Alan to go through. All of us were drafted in the Vietnam buildup, but I have gotten to live a wonderful life.
Memorial Day is set aside specifically to honor the Jerrys, Alans and Johns over the centuries who died in military service to our country.
Our country! Don't take it for granted that our nation's leaders are actually committed to the full concept of a national community that has sovereign rights of self-determination and responsibility to its own members, requiring meaningful rules on who may be a member of the community. In one respect, the immigration debate is an historic political battle to save the very concept of a national community. When it comes to immigration, many Members of Congress wonder if a defined national community is a little old-fashioned in their ideas of a globalist society.
(You may be interested in my blog from last Memorial Day: "DID THEY DIE FOR OPEN BORDERS? Memorial Day raised questions about U.S. government's commitment to national community.")
By the way, this is not Veterans Day (that's in November). This is not a day to honor all of us who served in the Armed Services. Rather, this is the day for the select percentage of veterans who made the supreme sacrifice.
Like many of you, I have a family with members who fought for our national community across the generations -- mine in the War of Independence, Civil War, World War I, World War II and Vietnam, although I know only of my cousin Robert who was career military. The rest were citizen soldiers. We're fortunate, though. I'm unaware of any member of my family having died in a war. And I don't know any of the military who have died in our wars of the last two decades.
So, my personal Memorial Day list is pretty short.
Memorial Day for me always starts with honoring the fellows from my high school who were called to serve back during the Vietnam War, but who didn't come back alive.
I can be pretty sure that Jerry, Alan and John did not put their lives on the line for the concept of a global marketplace or a borderless ideology of the elites. They died for their country -- for their national community.
Besides saying their names, I feel I owe it to them to not allow their deaths to be cheapened by allowing our country to be weakened and partly dissolved by out-of-control immigration.
I think of a light-hearted analogy from our high school football team.
I broke my leg while tackling a fullback who otherwise was on his way to a 50-yard touchdown for Waynesville High School on an incredibly cold night in 1964. In fact, I suffered eight breaks in my right leg because of the way John Hanson and other teammates piled on at the end of the tackle. Thanks a lot, John! The game was delayed for around 20 minutes until the ambulance arrived. Once I was secure in the car, the ambulance drove me down the field that I had kept the fullback from traversing. Eager to get the sub-freezing game back underway, the referees allowed the next play to begin before the ambulance crossed the goal line. As the car was turning around the goal posts, I could see out the back window as a Waynesville ball-carrier broke through the Marshfield defense, chased the ambulance and scored. I can tell you that at that moment, it was pretty disheartening to think that I had endured a shattered leg to stop a play that occurred immediately after I left the field!
To me, that is what -- on a far larger and tragic scale -- it would be like for all those who have died for our national community if we then allow Congress to, in effect, dissolve -- or dilute -- the national community by declaring that it is open to milions upon millions of people who choose to break our laws to settle here and then demand that they be afforded full rights of the community.
Which names of your family and friends will you speak today? We add them to the list with Jerry, Alan and John. We all owe a debt to all of them.
I encourage you to create a written list of all those in your family who died in service through the centuries, as well as everybody you have personally known. Do as I have done here and make some personal notes about them. Then distribute that list to family and friends so that when you are gone, those names will live on in the memories of future generations.
Don't let their names die; tell your kids or your friends about these people who missed out on so much of their lives because of the sacrifice they made for something we all once took for granted -- a country.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, May 28th 2009 @ 5:33pm EDT