Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Celebrated by multiple names and states since 1868, Memorial Day was established as a Federal holiday in 1967 and officially set up for remembrance of our fallen soldiers on the last Monday of May in 1971.  The holiday is perhaps the most somber in our list of nationally recognized holidays in that it is a day for us to reflect and consider the sacrifice made by those in uniform for our country.

Many of us will celebrate the holiday first as a three day weekend away from the normal routine of our work-lives.  We'll relax and rest, spend time with our families at the lake, around the grill, watch a ball game, go to a movie and not think too much about why we have this holiday in the first place.  It's normal, especially in our desensitized present that we focus on family and not on the many who died for which this holiday has been set aside.

I'd like to think that most of us will pause, even for a moment today and think about those known and unknown to us that have died in service to this country.  It is right and proper to have a moment of reflection that that the freedoms we enjoy as a people have been purchased at a terribly great price.  We have a debt of unknown quantity that we owe these people who have perished in conflict both at home and in places few people would be able to find on a map should they be so inclined to look.

If you take the time to read this article, please also take a little time to think about some one you have known who was lost to war.  Think about their families and the absence of fathers, brothers, husbands, wives, mothers, sisters and daughters who went away because they were commanded to and never came home.  Think about the voids caused by their deaths  for their loved ones and friends.  Think about the promise lost and what might have been. Think about the songs never written by the young musician who went to war. Think about the invention never created by the young wondering mind who left his or her dreams to take up arms in defense of a country that in many cases didn't deserve their sacrifice.  Think about the kids who will never have a catch with their dads, or won't have their moms around to have those conversations in a way that only moms can.

Over the course of our young history, the United States has been involved in over 70 conflicts both at home and abroad that has left over 1.3 million dead and another 1.5 million wounded.   Our country seemingly, has continually been engaged in conflict large and small, and always the end result is some one's child dies.  While we can clinically and objectively debate the idea of a "Just War" all day long, a war is still a war.  Soldiers and civilians die.  Parents lose their children and children lose their parents. Forever. It's a sobering thought that we have had only one decade (1820s) in the history of our nation where we have not been at war somewhere and suffered the loss of our sons and daughters in combat. 

What does this say about our country?  I know, I know, there is evil in the world.  It is a reality that we must be able to defend ourselves and our allies.   Because of who we are, we are looked up on as the defenders of what is good.  We have had to fight and die for ourselves and those in other countries we've pledged to protect, but are we, as a country so accustomed to this state of things that we simply accept it as an inevitable reality?  What can we do to end this presumably never-ending cycle of violence and death?  Who is working on this?  We spend almost a Trillion dollars per year in preparing ourselves for war.  How much do we spend on preparing ourselves for peace?

Most likely I will never see it come to pass, but I long for the day that we will have another decade or two or three where we do not lose one son or daughter in armed conflict.  All of us who live in this country should make it an enduring goal of our nation and demand that our government work harder to avoid going to war rather than the seemingly easy way we do this today. 

If we could achieve such a thing, what better memorial for those that have fallen would there be?  God bless the memories of those who have fallen on behalf of all the rest of us.

Tell me what you think.


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