This Memorial Day, people all across the USA will be remembering those servicemen who have fallen in the service of their country, in wars ancient and modern. We'll also (hopefully) be remembering with thanks those of our countrymen who are serving right now, both at home and abroad, keeping us safe.
I thought I'd like to take a different approach to Memorial Day. Rather than remember deceased servicemen alone, I'd like to remember also the dangers against which they have protected and are safeguarding us. Those currently serving in Afghanistan and many other parts of the world are battling a relentless, fanatical, ideologically-driven terrorist cult that wants nothing more than to spread death, destruction, panic and terror in the USA and any other nation that won't adhere to its miserable, twisted, insular version of religious belief. They are fighting - and sometimes dying - just as their forebears have done, to keep us safe.
We know what fundamentalist terrorists want to do in the USA, because we've captured their training materials, as well as many of their members. We know they want to target civilians, not military installations, and we know they'll try to pick the most defenseless, helpless targets they can, where they can inflict the maximum possible number of casualties.
They did this before, in Russia, in 2004, at a place called Beslan. Over three hundred innocent civilians were killed, most of them schoolchildren, by Muslim extremist terrorists from Chechnya. Those responsible have been hailed as 'martyrs' by their twisted, evil comrades in terror, and they've sworn to emulate their 'triumph' in 'the great Satan', America, one day. If you don't believe that they'll try, you're deluded.
If you want to read the truth about Beslan, there's a truly epic article in Esquire magazine. It's some of the finest written journalism I've ever had the privilege to read. Highly recommended. Here's a short excerpt:
The terrorists appeared as if from nowhere. A military truck stopped near the school and men leapt from the cargo bed, firing rifles and shouting, "Allahu akhbar!" They moved with speed and certitude, as if every step had been rehearsed. The first few sprinted between the formation and the schoolyard gate, blocking escape. There was almost no resistance. Ruslan Frayev, a local man who had come with several members of his family, drew a pistol and began to fire. He was killed.
The terrorists seemed to be everywhere. Zalina saw a man in a mask sprinting with a rifle. Then another. And a third. Many students in the formation had their backs to the advancing gunmen, but one side did not, and as Zalina sat confused, those students broke and ran. The formation disintegrated. Scores of balloons floated skyward as children released them. A cultivated sense of order became bedlam.
Dzera Kudzayeva, seven, had been selected for a role in which she would be carried on the shoulders of a senior and strike a bell to start the new school year. Her father, Aslan Kudzayev, had hired Karen Mdinaradze, a video cameraman for a nearby soccer team, to record the big day. Dzera wore a blue dress with a white apron and had two white bows in her hair, and was on the senior's shoulders when the terrorists arrived. They were quickly caught.
For many other hostages, recognition came slowly. Aida Archegova thought she was in a counterterrorism drill. Beslan is roughly 950 miles south of Moscow, in a zone destabilized by the Chechen wars. Police actions were part of life. "Is it exercises?" she asked a terrorist as he bounded past.
He stopped. "What are you, a fool?" he said.
The terrorists herded the panicked crowd into a rear courtyard, a place with no outlet. An attached building housed the boiler room, and Zalina ran there with others to hide. The room had no rear exit. They were trapped. The door opened. A man in a tracksuit stood at the entrance. "Get out or I will start shooting," he said.
Zalina did not move. She thought she would beg for mercy. Her granddaughter was with her, and a baby must mean a pass. She froze until only she and Amina remained. The terrorist glared. "You need a special invitation?" he said. "I will shoot you right here."
Speechless with fear, she stepped out, joining a mass of people as obedient as if they had been tamed. The terrorists had forced the crowd against the school's brick wall and were driving it through a door. The people could not file in quickly enough, and the men broke windows and handed children in. Already there seemed to be dozens of the terrorists. They lined the hall, redirecting the people into the gym.
There's much more at the link. Essential reading, IMHO.
Here's a five-part video series on what happened at Beslan. It's hard to watch, because it's so damn painful. It pulls no punches. (Although the titles say there are six parts, there are only five on YouTube, and nothing appears to be missing, so I think they're mis-labeled.)
All I can say is, thank God we have men and women standing guard over us, far from our shores, to tackle this sort of horror in its home territory, rather than see it come to us. To our servicemen and women this Memorial Day . . . thank you. Thank you very much. To those who have fallen in that cause: brothers and sisters, thanks to your sacrifice, we haven't had a Beslan in the USA, yet. We honor you for helping to prevent it. May your successors enjoy equal and even greater success.