America’s Memorial Day holiday is a reminder that freedom truly is not free. Nor does the peace keep itself.
Rather, our safety and our way of life — including our economic prosperity, values and democratic society — are all actively maintained by a proverbial army of dedicated people in and out of government, chief among them our men and women in uniform, including veterans past and present.
They are willing to serve and give their all if needed. Not only have many sacrificed their lives or limbs, but also time with their families and friends so that we may be with ours instead.
Today, the U.S. has roughly 33,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan. Some are on their first combat deployment; others on their fifth. Still countless other service members are also away from their families scattered around the world helping to prevent future wars from breaking out. Through maintaining a daily forward presence, investing in a cutting-edge arsenal, and engaging with partners and allies across the globe, the U.S. military helps deter aggression and advance American interests abroad while promoting a more prosperous future.
But American global leadership has a price. It is paid in larger defense budgets to fund a forward military presence, constant diplomatic and economic engagement, and an individual willingness to bear any burden to promote the advancement of the American-backed international order.
These costs are not trivial, but they pale in comparison to the sacrifices we are reminded of this weekend.
As the U.S. military shrinks in size and capability, the risk is rising that more Americans will be sent into harm’s way to respond to the outbreak of global conflict at some point in the future.
Thankfully, that future is not inevitable. America can do much to rebuild and strengthen its military posture in order to better deter global aggression. It will take time and money, but in comparison to the alternative, it is the affordable and easy answer.
We owe America’s servicemembers the courtesy of doing all we can to give them the tools they need to not only prevail in conflict quickly, but also to prevent wars before they start.
Protecting our protectors is not be limited to one federal holiday. Instead, policymakers must commit themselves to carefully supporting and overseeing the health and strength of our armed forces and those that served at all times.