Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The vibrant city of West Berlin was reunited with the rubble of communist East Berlin. This began the collapse of communism in all of Eastern Europe. Freedom finally came to countries that are now our allies there. Then the Soviet Union itself collapsed. After fifty years, the Cold War was over.
Bright light was shed on the abject failure of communism as both an economic and a political system. Bright light was shed on the suffering of people, not to mention the environmental horrors that result from state controlled economies. Bright light was shed on the brutal tactics necessary to impose communism on people. The lie of equality for all was exposed in the reality that a ruling elite enjoyed dachas, and private beaches, and limousines, and stores open only to them stocked with the best Western foods, liquors and consumer goods. Meanwhile, the people they ruled went without even basic amenities.
The Army in Germany encouraged soldiers to visit Berlin so they could better understand why we were there. During the winter of 1974, I took twenty-five of my soldiers to Berlin. We received a briefing from members of the elite Berlin Brigade and were then free to tour West Berlin. First impression, this is a dynamic, vital, colorful, successful city. The original Reichstag House, destroyed by the allies, was now a monument, not to national-socialism, but to freedom. The next morning, we boarded a bus with steel mesh over the windows. We were not allowed to bring cameras. We crossed through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin. First impression, lots of soldiers with AK-47's and we were unarmed. Then relief, they weren't guarding us, they were facing into East Berlin. They were patrolling the Berlin Wall to make sure the East Berliners didn't escape. Then I saw the rubble, blocks and blocks of bombed out buildings left over from World War II. My last, and most vivid memory is of an older woman, stooped over, wearing a drab grey coat, a tattered grey shawl over her head and shoulders. As we drove by, she held her hand out to twenty-five American soldiers on the bus and cried out "dollars for my family".
How quickly it seems, we forget what we all saw, and what we learned about the failure of state-controlled economies, and the danger of surrendering our freedoms to an "enlightened" ruling elite.
As we approach Veteran's Day, remember our soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Men and women who live by this creed: "I am an American Soldier. I am prepared to fight, and if need by die in defense of my country and our way of life. I will never surrender of my own free will!" Remember the hundreds of servicemen and women who died on our behalf, often unsung heroes, winning the Cold War. Remember the courage of our leaders who, at least up until now, have rejected the empty promises of socialism and refused to put themselves on an elite pedestal above us; leaders who stood up for our Constitution, and our free-market economic system; leaders who were willing to fight, and if need be die in defense of our way of life. Pray for our Country.