A social media acquaintance of mine tells me that Memorial Day is a holiday he wishes “we didn’t need.”
Amen to that.
I want to offer a point of view, though, that might puzzle some readers of this blog. If it does, I will try my best to explain.
My belief is that service personnel who die in conflicts that are deemed to be “politically unpopular” do not “die in vain.” I hear that kind of criticism leveled at our politicians and, to be candid, it makes my hair stand up; I bristle badly at the accusation.
Yes, this nation has been involved in armed conflict that has sparked ferocious political debate here at home.
In my lifetime, I suppose you could go back to the Korean War, which began just five years after the Japanese surrendered to end World War II, arguably the nation’s last truly righteous war.
The fighting ended in Korea in 1953 but to this very moment, South and North Korea remain in a state of war; they only signed a cease-fire to stop the bloodshed.
Vietnam ratcheted the political debate to new levels, beginning around 1966. The Vietnam War did not end well for this country. We pulled our troops off the battlefield in early 1973, only to watch as North Vietnamese troops stormed into Saigon two years later, capturing the South Vietnamese capital city, renaming it after Ho Chi Minh and sending thousands of enemy sympathizers off to what they called “re-education camps.”
The Persian Gulf War was brief and proved to be successful. Then came 9/11 and we went to war again in Afghanistan and less than two years later in Iraq.
We have lost tens of thousands of young Americans in all those politically volatile conflicts since Korea. Yes, there have been accusations that those warriors “died in vain.”
They did not! They died while answering their nation’s call to duty. They might have been politically unpopular conflicts — but the orders that came down to our young citizens were lawful.
I will continue to resist mightily the notion that our heroic military personnel died in vain. I know better than that. I only wish the critics of public policy decisions that produce misery and heartache would cease defaming the heroism of those who died in defense of the principle that grants citizens the right to complain about our government.
I join my social media acquaintance in wishing away the need to commemorate Memorial Day. But we cannot … as long as young men and women answer their nation’s call to arms.