Today is Memorial Day and I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone today of what Memorial Day is all about. Many well meaning people even get it wrong in a way. My inbox tends to fill up with “thanks for your service” emails around Memorial Day. I appreciate it, there is nothing wrong with thanking a vet today, yet it is not really the day to thank vets many seem to believe it to be.
It seems to me that many think Memorial Day is like Veterans Day Part Two, it isn’t. Again no day is a bad day to thank a vet but if we become convinced that Memorial Day is about those of us that served and came back home, we miss the point. Memorial Day is more somber, it is about those who fell in battle and never again got up, it is about those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, it bluntly is about those who died.
Today at some point just pause and think about that. Think about the 4,400 of our US service members that have fallen in Iraq, the 2,300 in Afghanistan, the 47,000 in Vietnam, 33,000 in Korea, 291,000 in WWII, 53,000 in WWI or perhaps the 212,000 that fell on both sides in the War Between the States.
You don’t have to be for any war past or present to respect men and women who will give their lives for what they believe and fight the wars that politicians initiate. There are days for just about everything now. Days for bosses, secretaries, days for this and that and anything Hallmark can come up with.
What you won’t find in most greeting card stores is a Memorial Day Card, because those who would receive the card can’t open it, read it and feel good that someone cares. All they can hope for is that someone remembers their sacrifice, perhaps a flower or a wreath on their graves (if they even have one) or a comrade who is now living with a zeal for life in their memory.
Memorial day my friends is to remember those who served and died. Enjoy the day off if you have it, just try to remember the cost of this day. Some say you can’t count the cost, sadly you can and the numbers are very large. If you want to put it in perspective, just view the US Military Casualties of War Page on Wikipedia.
I will end with this though. There are some that begrudge all the back yard BBQs, trips to the beech and flat out enjoying of a day off. They seem to feel we should all wear sack cloths and put ashes on our faces today. I disagree, in fact very much so. While I truly feel our nation should stop interfering around the world in so many ways, I know the hearts of those who serve. They believe in what they are defending.
And a family in a back yard, joyfully sharing each others company symbolizes that better than any statue, wall or memorial ever could. It is okay to be happy today, those who fell would want you to, just take a simple moment in this day and recall their sacrifice.
P.S. – I have run this same article simply adjusting the numbers of the fallen for the current conflicts as necessary for almost as long as The Survival Podcast has existed. This year I felt compelled to add this addendum. I know a lot of people out there in my audience are anti war and really dislike things like Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Let me just say I might be as anti war as is possible for a person to be. Seeing the only alternative is being pro war, I don’t have much of an ethical dilemma with that.
The loudest such voices though against things like honoring service come from purist anarchists and libertarians. Folks I consider myself to be both an anarchist and a libertarian. Unlike some though it seems, I have not forgotten that I was not born one. For three years I served this nation as a US Army Airborne Solider. I never killed anyone during that time, I would have done so if called to. I am grateful beyond words that I was never called on to do so, that I don’t have to live with that reality.
I served as a young man who came from a family that served. I had grandparents, uncles, a father, etc. who served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, it was expected. I believed 100% that America was not just good but always acted for good and that we were never wrong. Why? I was taught this like most are. Let’s be honest most that don’t serve, do not choose not to because they are anti war, anti state or anti interventionist. As only one half of one percent of all Americans since the draft stopped in 73 have chosen military service, we know the vast majority do not serve.
Additionally we know that Americans continually elect people who get the nation into new conflicts, expand existing ones and continue the policies that lead to both. Clearly most people have no real concern in stopping unnecessary wars, I don’t blame them either. They like most have been taught that this is how things have to be, they believe it too.
The difference in the .5% that serve is that they do not only believe it, they are willing to sacrifice themselves for their beliefs. They are people willing to risk their lives and die if need be to preserve what they believe in. Today we stop to reflect and honor those who took that risk, and fell never to get up again. And in time, it is soliders who become the most anti war among us. Try to remember that and try to remember that where ever you are on your journey though this life today, you didn’t start there.
If only we were to follow the words of advice given by a former solider and president to a graduating class at the US Military Academy in 1947, we might actually become what we claim to be.
“War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men. Though you follow the trade of the warrior, you do so in the spirit of Washington — not of Genghis Khan. For Americans, only threat to our way of life justifies resort to conflict.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower – Graduation Exercises at the United States Military Academy, 6/3/47
Like many I ask where has this spirit gone. I also know the answer, it pains me to say it, but it lives in the hearts of those who serve, and in the memories of those who never returned.