We seem as a society to forget what this weekend really commemorates. Memorial Day weekend does not mark the unofficial beginning of Summer, the end of the school year, or the weekend of the Indianapolis 500. It’s not about throwing Frisbees at the beach, flipping burgers, and downing a few cold ones.
And, no, we do not on this day thank a veteran. That is not what today is about, as we veterans should solemnly remind those who do thank us on Memorial Day. Today is a day of remembrance—remembering those who fell defending this nation and her allies during times of armed conflict. Thank a veteran on Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day), but spend today remembering our fallen comrades in arms.
Those who followed my blogs on our most recent cruise foray will recall that we spent some time in the cool, damp drizzle at a cemetery in Normandy, France. That would be the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. It was a very moving experience, and I saw grown men reduced to quivering lips and teary eyes that day. If you’ve served in uniform then tears come easily while casting eyes upon this site. If you lost a friend or loved one who fell while in uniform, those tears come even easier.
This country has been at war now for the worst part of eleven years. We recently ended our direct military involvement in one war that did not serve our national interests, and we’re winding down another that did.
During this time, and for the first time in the history of this republic, we at home were not asked to make the sacrifices that other wartime generations have been called upon to make. Instead, we allowed politicians to tell us to take tax cuts, go shopping, and leave the fighting to an all-volunteer military force. We acquiesced to that relatively painless strategy, and left it to future generations to pick up the tab for our collective acts of irresponsibility. Meanwhile, we have allowed our political leaders to slash the benefits and much needed post-combat services of those who did volunteer, leaving them to cope on their own with injuries both physical and mental.
It is for those decisions that both history and future generations will condemn and curse us.
As you look over that sea of Crosses and Stars of David below, be grateful for those who sacrificed everything. But be wary of those who never wore a uniform, who declare themselves to be “Great Americans,” and yet who continue to advocate cuts in support to the families of the fallen and the services to veterans—all the while demanding that no sacrifices be asked of those who stayed at home. There is truly no greatness in such a stand.
And there never will be.