Sacred Honor – Then and Now

Our 56 founding fathers closed the Declaration of Independence with the following words:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

These words were meant to bind them together in the eyes of the Lord to a higher standard of excellence. Sacred honor as opposed to honor was paramount in their minds. They asked to be guided by the Lord in their actions so that people would understand that their actions were righteous. This high level of excellence by our leaders was not easy in light of the atrocities that were being carried out by the British and the Hessians as the war progressed.

John Adams addressed this issue directly:

“I know of no policy, God is my witness, but this — Piety, Humanity and Honesty are the best Policy. Blasphemy, Cruelty and Villainy have prevailed and may again. But they won’t prevail against America, in this Contest, because I find the more of them are employed, the less they succeed.”

The following excerpt from the book Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer gives George Washington’s views on this subject:

“It is expected that humanity and tenderness to woman and children will distinguish brave Americans, contending for liberty, from infamous mercenary ravagers, whether British or Hessians.”

Other orders went out for the care of prisoners of war. Washington and his officers set a high standard in their treatment of Hessian captives in Trenton. He issued instructions that:

“the officers and men should be separated. I wish the former may be well treated, and the latter may have such principles instilled in them during their Confinement, that when they return, they may open the Eyes of their Countrymen.”

Not all Americans wanted to do these things. Always some dark spirits wished to visit the same cruelties on the British and Hessians that had been inflicted on American captives. But Washington’s example carried growing weight, more so than his written orders and prohibitions. He often reminded his men that they were an army of liberty and freedom, and that the rights of humanity for which they were fighting should extend even to their enemies. Washington and his officers were keenly aware that the war was a contest for popular opinion, but they did not think in terms of “images” or “messages” in the manner of a modern journalist or politician. Their thinking was more substantive. The esteem of others was important to them mainly because they believed that victory would come only if they deserved to win. Even in the most urgent moments of the war, these men were concerned about ethical questions in the Revolution.

There was no ambiguity in America’s excellence or sacred honor. There was no rationalization for bad or evil actions, no matter how slight or egregious. But that was another time. The media today relish the opportunity to portray America as evil and without honor. The latest example is the video showing Marines urinating on dead enemy combatants. This article is not passing judgement on these individuals: that is up to the military. Their actions do no honor to the country and that is the lesson that we need to understand.

Rationalizing this incident or any other dishonorable incident does not justify their actions: it dishonors our country and our founding principles. Would George Washington rationalize their actions? Should we? If we do not hold our country to a high standard of excellence, will the rest of the world and our own people believe what we say we represent? Will the Lord grace our future?

The following assessment by Rep. Allen West has been sent and posted by various TEA Party groups and individuals:

“I have sat back and assessed the incident with the video of our Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.  I do not recall any self-righteous indignation when our Delta snipers Shugart and Gordon had their bodies dragged through Mogadishu.  Neither do I recall media outrage and condemnation of our Blackwater security contractors being killed, their bodies burned, and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.

“All these over-emotional pundits and armchair quarterbacks need to chill.  Does anyone remember the two Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division who were beheaded and gutted in Iraq?

“The Marines were wrong. Give them a maximum punishment under field grade level Article 15 (non-judicial punishment), place a General Officer level letter of reprimand in their personnel file, and have them in full dress uniform stand before their Battalion, each personally apologize to God, Country, and Corps videotaped and conclude by singing the full US Marine Corps Hymn without a teleprompter.

“As for everyone else, unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth, war is hell.”

If we believe what America stands for is correct and we believe in sacred honor, then we cannot rationalize evil. I agree with Rep. West that “War is Hell”. As stated above by John Adams and George Washington, America must be better than our enemies. So I want to repeat George Washington’s thoughts:

He often reminded his men that they were an army of liberty and freedom, and that the rights of humanity for which they were fighting should extend even to their enemies.

I don’t believe the first amendment puts any conditions on who is allowed free speech and who should “shut your mouth”. Trying to rationalize bad actions has no place in a country founded with sacred honor. God bless our military and shed your grace on us.

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law! 

O beautiful for heroes proved 
In liberating strife. 
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

David DeGerolamo

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