A President’s Ultimate Sacrifice

A brief reflection on this Memorial Day

Members from the various US military services carry President John F. Kennedy's flag-covered casket to his burial at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 25, 1963. (Photo by Tom Nebbia/Corbis via Getty Images)

Saturday, May 29, was John F. Kennedy’s birthday. If President Kennedy were still alive—this man who will always be young in the nation’s memory—he would be 104. He was a veteran, of course, a Navy Lieutenant who earned a Purple Heart and a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his life-threatening heroism helping to rescue his crew from the torpedoed PT-109. And though we might not often think of him in the context of all the fallen military heroes who died for their country, he surely was serving his country when his blood was spilled and he made the ultimate sacrifice.

He was a committed public servant, just like we assumed every president would be up until the last White House occupant, whose desecrations of the office included mocking the sacrifices made by our soldiers as “suckers” and “losers.” In times like these, when we are witnessing so many officials exploit their offices for self-enrichment and abandon any hint of higher purpose, John F. Kennedy’s famous words from his inaugural address particularly resonate: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

I’m feeling grateful to all the brave men and women who’ve given their lives in service to their country and in support of the democracy and freedom that we cherish. (That includes over 400,000 American soldiers who died during the Second World War, a battle for the survival of democracy that could have taken the life of one 25-year-old Navy lieutenant.) In the coming months and years, it’s up to all of us to do our part to sustain America as a democratic country and uphold the principles of self-government.

Wishing everyone a peaceful Memorial Day. I welcome any stories of fallen heroes or photos you’d like to share here with me and this community.