It is a day when we celebrate the uniformed heroes who first won, and then preserved, our freedom. It is significant that the first of those were the patriots of the American Revolution, who for the most part brought their own rifles and muskets to bear against the highly skilled and disciplined opposing force they defeated.
If you are a student of the gun, the name of Col. Jeff Cooper, USMC (ret.), will ring a bell with you. Few remember that the late Colonel was a history teacher at one time in his life. He found some letters written by a British soldier of the period, who had been horrified by the barbaric practice of the colonists actually aiming their rifles, to deadly and ultimately victorious effect.
Fast forward to the War Between the States. Many historians maintain that man for man, the Confederate soldiers were deadlier on the battlefield than their Yankee counterparts, because being more likely to have been rural in background – farmers, hunters, shooters — they brought with them skill at arms that they had learned long before donning the uniform. It was after seeing this that a group of senior Union officers formed the National Rifle Association in 1871, to foster that skill for future combatants defending their nation.
World War I: such storied heroes as Alvin York and Herbert McBride were master riflemen before they joined up, and each left their battlefields strewn with enemy dead, one shot at a time. Ditto the most highly decorated American soldier of World War II, Audie Murphy. Vietnam? Carlos Hathcock, a national champion rifle shooter well before he went overseas. In more current conflicts? Think Chris Kyle, and more.
One of the things they, and so many others, fought and died for was the freedom to prepare their descendants to be the next Alvin York, the next Audie Murphy.
Many of us will celebrate part of Memorial Day on a shooting range. I will be among them.
That gunfire will be the sound of the freedom America’s heroes fought and died for.