” In Flanders fields where the poppies grow, the crosses stand row upon row.” Thank you Lt. Col. John McCrae. Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May. It is supposed to be a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces. The holiday originated after the Civil War to remember and honor the war dead on both sides. Memorial Day was originally a floating holiday since it was fixed on the 31st of the month. Today it anchors a long weekend filled with shopping, picnics, barbecues, beach trips, etc. and is a warmup for the next 3-day weekend at July 4th. Sadly the day’s purpose, to remember the nations’s war dead, has been forgotten by many. We do not like to talk about war dead. They are our “fallen heroes,” and are remembered in the same sentence that we ‘remember the troops,” and those serving “in harms way.” We like to soften things. Anything that bothers us or is inconvenient we soften especially when it comes to something that is inconvenient and distasteful, like war.
It seems that everyone today is a hero. In our culture and society , beginning in primary school, there are no losers. The “self esteem” generation of parents and educators make sure of that. Everyone gets a trophy, everyone wins. Therefore every returning serviceperson is a hero. Especially the World War II generation. As we are losing so many every day we regard them all as a heroes. Talk to anyone of these guys and gals and they will tell you they are not heroes. A Medal of Honor recipient is a hero; most veterans are not. They were just doing their job like everyone else and are lucky to have survived. Winston Churchill said it best, “There is
nothing so exhilarating than to be shot at without result.” The alternative is not so pleasant or exhilarating. When one of our service people dies he or she suffers a horrible, painful death which cries out to be remembered and commemorated on Memorial Day. Visit one on the 131 national cemeteries in the U.S. or one or the 24 national cemeteries on foreign soil and you will get the idea. Or go to Dover Air Base in Dover, DE and watch the large USAF cargo planes bringing the dead home from Afghanistan and Iraq in the middle of the night. These young men and women do not “fall” in “harms way;” they die in a war.
But these thoughts bother us; they are inconvenient. They make us feel “uncomfortable” and interfere with our summer warmup weekend.