On a recent European tour, my wife and I visited you at the American Cemetery and Memorial in Luxembourg. Your grave was one of thousands but it attracted our attention because it was the only one adorned with fresh flowers.
Somebody near and dear to you, your widow perhaps, or a sibling, or maybe your child, still thinks of you, still holds you in their heart.
I didn’t know you, of course, because you died on March 18, 1945, eight years before I was born. I see on the white marble cross that marks your final resting place your first name was David and you were from Missouri. Maybe you were a farmer or a teacher or a young man just out of high school before you fought with the 315th Infantry, 87th Division of the United States Army.
Luxembourg was at the center of the great fight in which you perished. We now reverently call it the Battle of the Bulge. We thought the Germans were defeated in late 1944. Their cities and production centers were nearly all leveled by then, but Hitler had one last card to play. He massed his men and tanks at the center of the thin American line and pushed forward. American talk of being home by Christmas was obliterated in a hurricane of German shells and bullets.
You watched all of this unfold in shock like most of the other boys around you. But undermanned and outgunned, in the bitter cold and snow, you guys fought like hell at places like Bastogne and St. Vith and Foy, refusing to yield to the German onslaught.
We have never forgotten. We will never forget.
You were among the 90,000 Americans killed, wounded or missing during the Bulge. There are reminders everywhere of this epic conflict but none so moving as the beautiful, austere patch of green a grateful Luxembourg gave our nation so you and your fellow patriots could be interred on American soil. Attendants there carefully, almost lovingly, trim the grass around the headstones with hand clippers one blade at a time.
I don’t know where or how you fell. I pray you didn’t suffer. The 87th entered Germany the day after you died and the enemy surrendered a month later. It’s heartbreaking to think the war was almost over and that you never returned home to the heartland and the loved one who still sends flowers.
It’s nearly 70 years on now and our nation is still the greatest on earth thanks in large part to all you and your buddies did on that European battlefield. But America is also beset with a malignancy you could probably never imagine having seen Americans desperately fighting alongside one another to protect the principles for which America stands.
Today, incredibly, we have politicians that would prefer to destroy the America you fought for than amicably reconcile differences of opinion on how to govern. The rule of law for which you fought and died has become the rule of anarchy.
The will of the people as expressed in free and fair elections now counts for nothing to a small group of radicals in Congress if results don’t deliver the outcomes they want. When they don’t like legislation lawfully passed and upheld, these same extremists resort to political extortion to get what they couldn’t achieve through Constitutional means. They are even suppressing the sacred right to vote.
You probably had a nobler ideal in mind when you went into battle, one that placed what was best for all Americans ahead of what was best for just a few. We aren’t living up to that ideal today and for that I am profoundly sorry.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer in Kennesaw.