With the endless news updates surrounding “The War on This” or “The War on That,” you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know the last person to serve in WWI died in 2012. Memorial Day is a national holiday in the United States wherein we remember the men and women who died in service to their country.
Growing up in the military, I’ve always felt the men and women in uniform were my extended family. There’s an unspoken understanding among those in a community who know those they hold most dear may be called to the front lines on any given day. Though my dad retired back in 1995, there have been many times since where I’ve felt like a bastard for not enlisting and doing my part as my brother’s keeper.
This Memorial Day, I wanted to honor those who have fallen – and who may fall. In my eye, they deserve more than the thinly veiled opportunism sold as a celebration of freedom. There is no way we civilians can ever truly know what they endure in the name of freedom.
Put your own pro- or anti-war opinion aside for a moment and think about the troops. I don’t mean stick a yellow ribbon sticker on your tailgate or share some sappy, patriotic picture on Facebook. Think about what it means to give up some of your personal freedom in order to serve a higher purpose. This is what every service member has sworn to do.
The media and crooked-ass politicians have reduced our men and women in uniform to pawns in their all but useless political circus sideshow. They deserve better than that. 100 years ago, during World War I, 1 in 4 Americans were actively serving in combat operations. The other 3 in 4 Americans were supporting them from home – re-tooling factories to build tanks and ammo, changing their diets with “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” and even buying war bonds to fund the war effort.
Today, the number of Americans actively serving in Operation Enduring Freedom is closer to 1 for every 100. How many of those other 99 citizens are actively doing something to support the troops? Sadly, it often feels like it’s still just three or four. When the doughboys of WWI marched across Europe, through unspeakable horrors, they knew everyone back home was thinking about them. I don’t think our current troops have that luxury.
So why do they do it?
Why do they suit up and walk willingly into the face of danger every day? Ask any solider you know – it ain’t the for the money, that’s for sure. Those of us who have never served will never truly know, but I have to believe they do it because they genuinely ARE their brothers’ keepers. I have to believe they do it because they see themselves as making a difference in the world.
This Memorial Day, think about our men and women in uniform. And not as some generic, altruistic stereotype – as your friends, your neighbors, your fellow countrymen. They all have names and they are sworn to do what must be done, whether they like it not. You can enjoy shit beer, shit food, and the blind consumerism that passes for a “celebration of freedom” any day of the week. Today is their day.