I was originally going to post this yesterday…you know, when it was actually Memorial Day. Unfortunately, since moving across town last Friday, I haven’t had much internet access. Now that I’m back online, I’ve been pondering whether it would be disrespectful to “honor” Memorial Day with a late post on my ongoing bid for attention, or if Memorial Day was too important to allow to pass without comment.
As you can guess from the title, I decided to go with the latter, as I did previously on a similar occasion.
In case you don’t follow that link, that post on my old blog contains my primary thoughts on Memorial Day, and they haven’t significantly changed since I wrote it. The core of them is this:
Thing is, Memorial Day doesn’t have any particularly deep impact on me, either. I have been amazingly fortunate in that, while many of the people I care about have gone off to war, all of them have come back safe and whole. Memorial day isn’t about anyone for me.
It could have been about either one of my grandfathers – in which case I’m not sitting here writing this – but Grandpa was injured during Ranger training, and unable to join his company for D-Day…where they suffered a slaughter. Perhaps Memorial Day is about them for him, those long-ago brothers-in-arms. Poppy flew a supply plane in the Big One. Is there anyone that Memorial Day is about for him? Perhaps…if he remembers what a Memorial Day is. It’s possible; the last time I saw him, he didn’t know who I was, but I understand that the oldest memories are the last to go.
It could have been about my uncle Butch (christened Kenneth, but addressed as such only by his mother and his wife, and only sometimes by them). He was on the USS Forrestal. But he came out without a singe. I wonder if, for him, Memorial Day is about the 131 who went into the fire and the water.
It could have been about my father – again, if so, I’m not sitting here writing this – but he spent his tour in Vietnam working in a field hospital.
It could have been about my uncle Mickey. His ship went into a storm where it had no business going (not his fault – I understand someone a bit further up the chain of command got court-martialed for it), but it came out the other side.
It could have been about my brother or my sister-in-law. They work ground support for the Air Force (as best I can understand what they’re allowed to tell me), but that doesn’t mean they’re safe in today’s war, where there’s no such thing as “front lines”. Especially if they keep being sent back to the desert. If Memorial Day is about anyone for them, they’ve never said.
My sister, the doctor, is currently assigned to a hospital in Ohio, and it doesn’t look like she’s leaving anytime soon. I don’t really know how that works. But she does have someone that Memorial Day is about. And it’s changed her. For the better, I think, but the price was too high.
I guess Veteran’s Day is my holiday, and I’m grateful for it.
So what does an unblooded peacenik like myself really think about on Memorial Day? I make a wish.
I wish that instead of pride, war was about shame. Not for the soldiers; for everybody else. I wish that keyboard warriors, loudmouthed media figures and politicians who know they won’t be facing the bullets didn’t take war as an opportunity to make their balls feel big by “supporting” the troops they’re cheerfully feeding into a meat grinder. I wish that every war began with country’s leaders begging the soldiers’ forgiveness for failing to solve the problem without spending their lives. I wish that Memorial Day was about politicians taking off their thousand-dollar suits and generals taking off their medals, and all of them putting on sackcloth and ashes and begging forgiveness of the soldiers who were cheated of the lives they should have had, promising them that we, as a nation, will strive to be worthy of that sacrifice, to make the most of what they bought with the price they paid.
Do they say things like that anyway? I don’t listen to the speeches very much. As the politicians and the brass stand there in their suits and their medals, I find it hard to believe them. I can’t help but suspect that they think they’re already worthy.
But someone once, long ago, said it much better than I ever could. So to honor Memorial Day, late as it may be, I present you The Corries and The Dropkick Murphies with “The Green Fields of France”: