It is Memorial Day here in the United States. It is the day we honor those who served in the military and made the ultimate sacrifice, dying for their country in the line of duty. Often confused with Veterans' Day, which is for those who served in the military and are still alive, Memorial Day is probably the most solemn of all the non-religious holidays celebrated in the U.S.
As a side note, regarding confusing the two holidays, how often do you go to a memorial for a living person?
My father served in the U.S. Army in Germany during World War II. He came home, thank goodness, and was even awarded the Purple Heart, but many of those with whom he served, and so many others he never knew, did not come home. The same is true of those who have served in all wars where the U.S. was involved. A far from exhaustive list would include:
War of 1812
American Civil War
Nez Perce War
World War I
World War II
War in Afghanistan
And yet, as with a variety of holidays with deeper meanings than just days off from work or school (i.e. Veterans' Day, Christmas, Independence Day), the real meanings are lost on many Americans today. The sense of civic awareness and responsibility seems a rare breed.
Civic ignorance at its finest.
I think civic ignorance is part of the problem. I think another part of the problem is the public's perception of war. It has diminished under the weight of mistrust and disillusion as, more and more, wars in the latter twentieth century and in the twenty-first century no longer fall under the same dynamic as, say, World Wars I and II.
As an anti-war individual, Memorial Day is not a day for me to gripe about the military. My feeling is hate the mission, if you must, but love the soldier. For me, it is a reminder of why I am against war: the only guarantee.is death. Simultaneously, it is a reminder of those who sacrificed for this country in which I live so that I wouldn't have to go to war. The two are not, for me, mutually exclusive of one another.
It is a reminder to stand up and work for a more peaceful world and to honor those who have fallen.
Perhaps it is the distastefulness of war that has also resulted in less observance of Memorial Day, but that ends up being disrespectful to those who died. It is a melding together of missions (whatever their alleged outcomes are) and those who died in the line of battle. They are not, and never have been, one in the same. Remember, hate the mission, if you must, but love the soldier.
Memorial Day is not for the missions that occurred, but for the soldiers who died. They deserve our honor and respect.