Holocaust: heeding the warning signs

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Soviet troops entered the abandoned Nazi complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau Jan. 27, 1945. Survivors capable of being used in work camps were long gone, having been taken on a death march deep into Germany. Children and emaciated individuals too frail to be of use to the German war machine were all that remained, starving amongst the corpses and personal belongings of loved ones. Images of their sorrow strike a permanent hole in the hearts of all that see them. The horrors of the extermination camps were all too common.
American forces liberated the concentration camp of Buchenwald April 11, 1945. U.S. forces continued to save thousands of Nazi prisoners' lives as they advanced through Germany. Not until learning of the atrocities against humanity did anyone understand the magnitude and horror of the Holocaust. By the war's end, an estimated three million Jews had been killed in camps around German controlled territories.

The American people were thrown into a world in which true evil existed. Not only did these crimes occur, but they were conducted under the shadow and protection of isolationism. Many of these camps had been established in 1941, operating without impedance for several years. The chimes of, "that's their problem" were replaced with enthusiastic cries of, "never again!"

Never again would Americans allow themselves the luxury of indifference. In conflicts throughout history, young men and women of this country have sacrificed their lives in order to protect those in need. Americans have become a beacon for freedom in the world. The Holocaust forever changed the mindset of our society, as it relates to foreign conflicts. The fighting may not be local, but the vivid images of suffering hit home.

Never again will the United States remain unaware of tyrants' wickedness. Our ability to fly, fight, and win globally enables America to keep a watchful eye on those who would otherwise kill without pause. Retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, in his book On Combat, likened the military member to a sheep dog, ever vigilant and always ready, not if but when, the wolf comes.

Air and Space Power have provided our nation with the means to heed the warning signs of human crisis and respond on a moment's notice. No shadow exist dark enough to hide tyranny from our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines. America will maintain the moral obligation to intervene and stop human suffering at the hands of evil, because of the lessons of the past. The shock of the Holocaust remains one of the single most significant events in shaping the perception of Americans toward isolationism and forming the foundation of military commitment to freedom for all.