tyler-old-guard

John Cusack and Tyler McKee travel in totally different circles and, as such, have been influenced by totally different values. The difference between their value systems became very obvious over the Memorial Day holiday.

Cusack, 52, is a Hollywood actor who typically plays the role of an unconventional hero – the underdog and odd man out. However, over a holiday commemorating the memory of those who have served in uniform and passed on – both those lost on the battlefields of today or in earlier eras as well as veterans fortunate enough to have passed on in safer environs – Cusack reveals himself to be a hero in his own mind.

As Cusack attended a baseball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, fans were invited to stand to honor our real heroes in a Memorial Day salute sponsored by Boeing. One fan snapped a picture of Cusack remaining in his seat, posting it on social media and noting, “Here’s [John Cusack] staying firmly seated during tonight’s military salute at Wrigley Field.” The post triggered some angry responses from the fake hero. In them, Cusack, refusing to apologize, initially defended himself by claiming, “I didn’t stand up for the Boeing military salute – fast enough for some maga f–-.” Such a foolish response suggested the only people who would be offended by him remaining seated were Donald Trump supporters. He went on to belittle patriotism, suggesting his initial defense was untrue as he opposed the salute’s promotion of the military-industrial complex.

How can anyone, patriot or not, Trump supporter or not, be unwilling to recognize those who have died after having chosen to devote time in their lives to honor country and countrymen alike through military service? Is “Sadsack Cusack” so naive that he really has no comprehension of what Memorial Day is all about? As the 243rd year of our independence approaches, we cherish a rich history during which time millions of Americans gave selflessly of themselves to so serve. It is a history of continuous sacrifice by brave warriors fighting determined enemies in demanding environments like Valley Forge, Belleau Wood, the Frozen Chosin, or the jungles of Vietnam. Millions of Americans have left us over the past nearly two and a half centuries having selflessly served so people like John Cusack can live a life of luxury today. For him to choose to denigrate their collective memory simply in criticism of the military-industrial complex is senseless and totally disrespectful.

On the other hand, there are young people today like Tyler McKee who give us hope all is not lost. McKee is a member of an elite U.S. Army unit known as the “Old Guard.” It is the oldest active duty regiment in that service, having been first established in 1784.

Memorial Day is virtually every day for the Old Guard as it serves to honor the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery, located just across the Potomac River within sight of Washington, D.C. Its standard in performing its mission is perfection. It does so whether performing funerals for those who have given their full measure in the service of their country or performing as the Honor Guard for the Tomb of the Unknowns. The role of Honor Guard for the Tomb is one that is cherished ever since being assumed in 1930. For the subsequent 89 years, the Old Guard has continuously performed this duty, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is considered the highest honor of the Old Guard members to patrol the Tomb, marked by a plaque reading:

HERE RESTS IN
HONORED GLORY
AN AMERICAN
SOLDIER
KNOWN BUT TO GOD

In 2003, as Hurricane Isabelle approached and U.S. government offices shut down, the Old Guard was given permission to suspend its duty of guarding the Tomb. Its members respectfully declined. They viewed their duty as a symbol of respect and a constant reminder never to forget the sacrifices made by those who gave their own lives, though their names remain unknown to us. When Isabelle hit, and despite the absence of civilian observers, Old Guard members meticulously performed their duties around the Tomb, undeterred by the driving wind and pelting rain.

The Old Guard performs an annual tradition leading up to Memorial Day. While last Thursday was not a good day weather-wise in Washington, a Facebook post captured the unit’s actions:

“As vicious storms bore down, the intrepid members of ‘The Old Guard,’ could be seen doing what they do every year – placing small American flags at each headstone in Arlington National Cemetery. The sight of a soldier kneeling, seemingly impervious to the driving rain and the ominous gray sky, captivated special attention this year as the soldier knelt reverently and gently placed the flag. With only a few (civilians) watching from covered positions, a Tomb Sentinel approached the Unknowns with U.S. flags in hand. As thunder shook the ground and rains washed down without abandon, the Tomb Sentinel pierced through the elements with breathtaking precision. He knelt and placed the flags in honor of the Unknowns. For the select few who saw this moment, it was jaw-dropping. Humans have their limits, but The Old Guard has yet to meet theirs.”

One observer added, “It made for a scene that was both moving and apocalyptic.”

The Tomb Sentinel smartly planting the flag at the Tomb was Tyler McKee (see photo above). A video of his approach that day is inspiring as he flawlessly met his unit’s standard of perfection, oblivious to the downpour drenching him.

In total, the Old Guard planted 245,000 flags in the cemetery that day.

It is obvious that Cusack has opted to take a political stand similar to that taken by NFL “take-a-knee-during the National Anthem” quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It is a stand casting aside all consideration for those who may even agree with their politics but not with their methodology in demonstrating it. Most Americans recognize dishonoring our flag and our military dead is a most divisive way to do it as it unfairly denigrates a great nation and its true heroes.

Cusack and McKee represents opposite ends on the spectrum of appreciation for our veterans who have passed on. On one end is McKee, who practically spends every waking moment focused on honoring those veterans; sadly, on the other end is Cusack, who cannot render but a moment of time in an act of respect for our courageous warriors.

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