It troubles me that Memorial Day is practically, except generally for those directly affected, reduced to a celebration to kick off summer. I know most Americans don’t pay much attention to patriotic holidays as a rule, but forgetting what Memorial Day is about when your country is at war is unacceptable to me.
Bodies are flown in daily. The maimed arrive about 15 miles from my house, daily. We are at war. Right now, this minute and have been since October 7, 2001 and March 20, 2003 in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. Our country has been at war non-stop for 8 years, 6 on two fronts and I really don’t think most Americans even notice. I think what we enjoy most, sadly, is the luxury of not having war fought on our own soil.
We see no bombs dropped, hear no air-raid sirens, see nor smell any carnage. We don’t see the walking wounded, don’t see (or want to see) the coffins as they come off of the planes which bring our fallen back to be buried. We experience practically no civilian casualties compared to our “enemies”, nor the raping of our women and girls. The average American isn’t even aware of the death toll. It’s 4,300 in Iraq and 687 in Afghanistan (57% of the 1202 casualties among Coalition forces are American servicemen and women). So, 4,987 Americans are dead in these two wars, more dying daily and we’re all about summertime!
I’m not angry about this but I am disheartened. I love summer and 3 day weekends as much as anybody, but today is a day to remember. Today, for me, is a day to think about what I can do to help make the world a place where war is not a foregone conclusion.
I can’t say that I qualify as a full-blown pacifist, but I aspire to be. And as long as war is a reality, I honor those men and women who choose to risk life and limb for the freedom I enjoy in these United States. I am not always sure they are defending against any real threat to that freedom but, that aside, the choice is not theirs anyway. I am grateful.
I leave you with words of memorial from a time when war was fought on our soil, when we did see and did notice and appreciate the price of freedom.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
November 19, 1863