For the last twenty years I have lived in a country that was not able to defend itself from the Tyrant next door. Only through the selfless sacrifice of others from Canada, Great Britain and the United States of America has this small country been able to live in liberty and peace since 1945. Thousands of the young men who died to roll back the
darkness of dictatorship across western Europe are buried in honor and holiness just a mile up the road from my home. To visit them is to visit hallowed ground. These men deserve to never be forgotten. We hope and pray that each of them now sits with God in heaven, rewarded for their sanctifying bravery.
In the local villages surrounding the American Cemetery in Margraten, civic groups, schools and families have adopted and care for each and every grave of a fallen liberator that lay buried on this hill overlooking the orchards and corn fields that cover this serene, rolling landscape. Each year, on the American Memorial Day weekend, a moving tribute of pageantry, flowers and military ceremony is held to honor these men and the holy principles of heroism demonstrated by them seventy years ago. The Netherlands remembers!
During my latest research trip to Romania to gather materials for my upcoming novel, From the Rooftops, I visited another cemetery of heroes that also had a profound effect on my soul: The Cemetery of the Martyr Heroes of the December 1989 Revolution, in Bucharest.
In the late 1980s a wave of Liberty crested in Eastern Europe, dislodging several countries in Eastern Europe from the suffocating grip of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party. East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary all experienced a Velvet Revolution. Transition of power from Tyrants to Democrats was peaceful and the loss of life and blood was minimal. Other countries were not as lucky.
In the winter of 1989 Romania passed through a Scarlet Revolution wherein thousands perished for the cause of their own freedom from tyranny. For forty years the communist dictators of Romania, enslaved their own population, impoverishing them by design, while they lived in luxury and privilege. Those who rose up and shook a collective fist at the Tyrant to say “No More!” were immediately punished, many murdered, by cowardly snipers of the Secret Police, hidden in government buildings surrounding the Palace Square. The citizens and soldiers who stayed to fight, who put themselves in the line of fire to defend their neighbors, parents and children from the deadly retribution of the Securitate, demonstrated that human dignity for their families had become more valuable to them than their own lives.
In the Cemetery of Heroes in Bucharest an aura of holiness glows translucent around the white marble headstones. Electricians, engineers, students and soldiers lay next to each under well cared for, narrow, flower laden graves. Portraits of young faces engraved in stone impress upon the visitor that this is a graveyard of the young. The best Romania produced. Those who died too soon. Patriots.
As in Margraten, young men in their early twenties are interned and honored. Emotions sprung up quickly. These young men probably could have run away faster than everybody else in the crowd–yet, they stayed to fight. No cowards are buried here.
As I turned from the grave of a young man born in 1970, dead at nineteen years old, I thought of my own son, now the same age. Then, I was confronted with a gravestone with the dates: 1973-1989. “That could have been me…sixteen.” Looking left I saw two more birth dates that were even recent, 1975, “No! That’s too young! After my wife read the next headstone to me, I could no longer hold back my emotions and had to leave the graveyard, overcome with sadness, “Your mother will never forget you. Born 1976 – Died 1989.” Thirteen years old.
What must I do today and tomorrow to preserve the freedom, the fragile freedom, that I now enjoy so that I will never have to sacrifice my children to win it back? How do we reject the deceit of riches that tells us that personal wealth is synonymous with personal liberty? Or that economic growth should have priority over the rule of law and justice for all? As one who grew up under strong constitutional protections of my human rights, how can I guard against taking these blessings for granted and prevent them from being whittled away by wiley politicians and corporate titans?
What are you doing to preserve your own liberty, and the liberty of your grandchildren?
Please share in the comments any enlightened perspectives to help us all act proactively to preserve our precious freedoms.