Another Memorial Day and remind me again what it is we are fighting for?
Y’know, when I was really small, I can recall both my grandfather and my uncle reminiscing about the wars they’d fought. It was easy to see that the experience, even to that very day, had left them with a mix of feelings. Proud yes, but very sad at the loss of friends and others in their fleets and platoons. As they sifted through old dog-eared photos, it was not unusual to see them wipe a tear away. My grandfather and his men fought to rid the world of fascism. Both he and my uncle were, at different times, a part of the Second World War and the Korean War. Of course they justified it all by saying that it was the "price of freedom."
On Memorial Day the family would go to watch the parade and watch the assorted politicians lay wreaths on assorted monuments in front of assorted dignitaries all about the city. All very somber and not just a little heart-wrenching as I thought about those noble men who had given their lives so that I could be safe in my home. Even as a preschooler I felt so indebted to these men who had done this, so that I could grow up in a free world. Though I may not have understood everything I was honoring that day, I did have a vivid picture in my mind of a brave soldier facing down an enemy and shooting him dead. I, like so many, justified this by saying it had to be that way – him or me - cost of peace – I’m surprised my visions didn't have a patriotic soundtrack to accompany them.
Fast forward to the mid '60s. Operation Rolling Thunder and Vietnam. More prices of peace paid there in Vietnam, as well as Cambodia, Iran, Lebanon, Grenada, El Salvador, Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and now again Iraq. Has anyone figured out yet why two million Americans had to take part in ‘Nam? Worse, more than 58,000 Americans and another 304,000 wounded – for what? Did any of those soldiers facing down “the enemy” have a gripe with the enemy? No. They had no quarrel with the people who were trying to kill them. Neither did the enemy for that matter, both sides being victim of patriotic rhetoric trotted out from their governing houses to the media and subsequently a population of listeners. In any of the war footage sent back, did you see the brave politicians fighting in the rice fields of Vietnam? And reported deaths – anyone hear of many higher-up generals dying while in combat there?