“Saving Private Ryan,” which first came out in 1998, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, among others, is the ultimate Memorial Day movie in the sense that it illustrates the cost of war, not only on the human body but the human soul. The film is remarkable in that it was made during that brief period of relative peace between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the War on Terror.

The film starts with the most horrific sequence to be seen on the big screen in living memory, the D-Day Invasion, with Hanks as Captain Miller and his ranger company hitting Omaha Beach. The scenes which begin in the landing craft and ends as the Rangers penetrate inland, feature what it is like to confront fire and steel with all too mortal flesh.

Death comes at any moment from any direction, and it is not pretty.

The invasion sequence is just the appetizer, as it were, for one of the most glorious and most absurd missions depicted in cinema. Because his brothers have fallen on the same day, Miller and his company are assigned to find one Private John Ryan, a paratrooper lost behind enemy lines so that his mother will have at least one son left alive to comfort her. The mission is absurd because, after all, Miller and his men all have mothers and loved ones who will miss them if they die trying to find this Ryan fellow. It is glorious because it boils down the biggest war in human history to a quest across a nightmare landscape to save just one man and bring him home (not the last time Matt Damon has been in this situation.)

After having some adventures and experiencing many horrors, Miller, and his men find Private Ryan.

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In the strangest of twists, Ryan refuses to leave the French town where he finds himself in with a force of paratroopers. A German counterattack is about to start that might penetrate to the invasion beaches, and he is needed here. What about your mother? Captain Miller implores. What about your brothers? Ryan looks around at his fellow soldiers. These are my brothers, he says.

There is nothing for it but for the Rangers to change their mission and once again confront fire and steel with flesh.

The only competitor that “Saving Private Ryan” for greatest Memorial Day film is the recent “American Sniper” which focuses on the experiences of one man, Chris Kyle, who served several tours in Iraq, to a grievous cost. Ironically, Kyle survives combat only to be shot to death in Texas by a former Marine whom he is trying to help deal with his PTSD.

From the first April morning at Lexington and Concord, to something happening in Afghanistan’s hills as you read this, remember that some gave all so that we may live in peace and freedom.