“Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never wish to do less.” Robert E Lee
Perhaps, Serving in the military myself has helped me to understand a little of the struggle that every defender of our ‘nations rights’ goes through. The vast majority of us do not wake up one morning and say, “Today, I willingly take another souls life.” It goes against the grain of all decency and morality. But, we took an oath to defend, protect and serve the people. A pledge that we would honor our duty even though it conflicts with our personal beliefs. Today, more than others, I am reminded that we must draw from the well of compassion for those who were so tormented by the choice between duty and personal philosophy.
It is the anniversary of the birth of Robert E Lee (January 19, 1807 to October 12, 1870) and we celebrate the symbol of individual commitment to duty over all else during a time of great strife in our American history. Thousands of men, young and old, had to make that choice during those years of the civil war and millions of men and women in the years that followed, So, as we celebrate Robert E. Lee Day, we are not just honoring his sense of duty, but those millions of unheard voices that faced equal moral turmoil.
In a letter from Robert E Lee to George Washington Custis in January, 1861 Lee writes, …As an American citizen, I take great pride in my country, her prosperity and institutions, and would defend any State if her rights were invaded. But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for “perpetual union,” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled.
It’s easy to stand at our pulpit and look back upon our past and condemn people for the choices they made. But we should not be too quick to judge. How would you react today, if faced with the choice of defending your state or defending your country? Even though that might mean defending your country against your brother.