Memorial Day brought up the usual debate about the "best way" to honor those Americans who have died in the line of duty. Some believe that the only ways are to attend ceremonies and to plant flags in cemeteries. But I think the best way to honor those fallen soldiers is to maintain the ideals for which they fought and died.
We've done a pretty good job of honoring Revolutionary War and War of 1812 soldiers by maintaining our democracy and our free-market system. Sure, we've had a few Presidents recently who have decided to govern by fiat--rather than work within the three branches of government laid out by the Founding Fathers, and the independent American spirit has been squelched some by increasing Socialist tendencies--but those yearning to breathe free and live life relatively free of government constraints continue to come to our shores.
Civil War soldiers have been honored the best since their deaths. Despite occasional crazy talk of secession, we remain 50-states united and people are now longer considered property of others.
World War I soldiers were never "honored" at all. Less than 25-years later, the same countries were fighting in the same areas for pretty much the same reasons--except a lot more soldiers and civilians were killed the second time around.
Speaking of World War II, our efforts to properly honor the sacrifice of those killed in that war have been spotty at best. Roosevelt and Churchill gave away the freedom of millions in Eastern Europe to Stalin. However, the US did bolster the economies and security of Western Europe through the Marshall Plan and the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But many of those countries have squandered that second chance by moving toward Socialism and burying their people in debts so deep they can barely keep their economies operating. It looked like freedom was finally going to rule the Continent when the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union collapsed--but now Neo-Communists like Vladimir Putin are given the same capitulation in their efforts to overtake neighboring countries that the leaders of Europe gave Hitler in the 1930's--all in the name of "maintaining peace in our time".
The sacrifice of Korean War soldiers has not been "honored" well either. North Korea remains Communist--threatening its neighbor to the south on a continuous basis. And to make matters worse, we have allowed them to gain nuclear weapons--which sit in the hands of in-bred family rulers who act like three year olds demanding constant attention from the adults in the room.
Honoring Vietnam War dead has always been tricky. We gave up the fight there and the country remains Communist to this day. But like so many other nations, capitalism is finding its way there--and the people do enjoy a greater sense of freedom. Perhaps those deaths will someday not be in vain.
And then you have those killed in the War on Terror. We are walking away from the fight in Afghanistan--creating a vacuum that will likely be filled by the Taliban again--and their allies in Al Qaeda--meaning there was effectively no change in the situation that led to the rise of Osama Bin Laden. Meanwhile, militant Islam continues to spread throughout the world, putting more people in danger than before 9/11. It will likely be generations from now before we find out if that fight for human rights and democracy will have been "worth it".