Editors note: This weeks guest rant was again submitted by a former
Marine who happens to be a good friend of mine. If you'd like to submit
a guest rant for this site drop me a message in the message boards and
I'll get back to you with instructions on how to do so.
When you ask Americans what Memorial Day means to them, it often
appears that the day to remember our fallen takes on a different
significance. For many, Memorial Day weekend mainly marks the first
long vacation weekend of the year and another mega sales opportunity.
Quite possibly the recent controversy over publicly showing pictures of
flag-draped cases of American war casualties of the Iraq War could have
sensitized the national conscience in a very timely manner.
Like it or
not, coffins, white crosses and gravestones are sober reminders of what
Memorial Day and war are all about – to remember and honor those who've
died for America! Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868
by General John Logan, then national commander of the Grand Army of the
Republic, and was first observed on May 30, 1868. On that day, in
remembrance of all fallen soldiers of the Civil War, flowers were
placed on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery. On Memorial Day
2004, on countless cemeteries across the nation and across the seas,
Americans and friends of America will honor fallen comrades and loved
ones. These fallen made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, their
families, their God, various personal beliefs, and trusting that their
cause was just. When reading first-hand accounts of combat and
reflecting on my own Marine experiences, I quickly realize once again
that war isn't an exciting adventure. No, war isn't only about heroism
and glory but mainly about suffering, hardships and ultimately death –
civilian and military.
Nonetheless, war remains a part of human
intercourse, even in our civilized 21st century. Yes, although
despicable, war is sometimes a necessary evil to spur human evolution.
America's soldiers and especially the World War II generation have
demonstrated that it was possible to accomplish just that – to conclude
a major war with a balanced peace and successful reconstruction. For
their accomplishments in war and the creation of a lasting peace, that
generation has been rightfully recognized with a splendid memorial on
the National Mall in Washington, D.C. that will be dedicated on
Saturday, May 29. But while focusing on honoring the fallen and the
accomplishments of our World War II generation, we cannot forget the
men and women who have willingly carried on in the tradition of their
fathers and mothers since then. That includes those who joined
America's ideals from other lands, to earn the right to become fellow
citizens. They too gave it their all, believing we committed them for
just causes in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, the
Balkans, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
As we commemorate the sacrifice
of all fallen Americans, I sense that their crosses and markers remind
us that besides caring for their graves, we have other, unfulfilled
responsibilities. These include caring for the sick, wounded, and needy
veterans, while they still have a life to live. The crosses and grave
markers furthermore alert us that veterans and patriotic citizens must
unite and take political responsibility on issues with impact on our
society and the world, such as war, peace, health care, national
values, and eroding job benefits. The dead silently prod us to alert us
to our citizen duty to remind our political and military leaders what
consequences their decisions could have on our children and us,
especially since it is usually our young who fight and sacrifice in
war. More political awareness and involvement can only help to find
more visionary policy choices for our nation and hopefully reduce war
to a last-resort option.
On Memorial Day 2004, I will stand with you to
salute all warriors who have given their lives, believing that our
nation sent them to fight for a righteous cause. Let their sacrifice
not have been in vain, but help create a better and more peaceful world
for future generations.
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