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May 24, 2014

My Memorial Day [WeirdDave]

I wrote this in May 2000. I thought about updating it to reflect the post 9/11 wars, and also to recognize that Memorial Day now involves teaching my young son that some debts can never be repaid, but ultimately I decided to leave it alone. Some things need to stay as they were originally written (full disclosure: I did tighten up one awkward turn of phrase and one questionable historic fact).

My Memorial Day

I sit here at my computer on the night before Memorial Day, and ponder what my day will be like. I intend to take a little trip, you see, and like any intelligent being, I am planning it in advance. The weather tomorrow is supposed to be overcast and rainy, but rather than dampen the mood, I imagine it will enhance it. I plan on visiting my local cemetery.

I see myself strolling through the even graves, row upon row. I shall consider all the lives represented by the seemingly endless markers, and I imagine I will be drawn to one or more adorned with the flag of the United States. As I peer down upon the hallowed resting place of a man or woman who gave a portion, or perhaps, all, of their life in service of this country I will remember. I will remember how lucky I am to be well fed while so many in this world go to bed hungry. I will remember the privilege I enjoy of living among others with the freedom to live, be happy and prosper. I will remember that there are places where a group of government thugs could tear me from my home and family to imprison or kill me, with nothing more than a whim or the whispered suggestion of wrong thinking to condemn me. Most of all I will remember that the liberties that I so blissfully take for granted were paid for at a terrible price.

At some point during my stroll, I will probably fall to my knees and silently pray to a God whose form I'm not sure of, asking that the fallen never be forgotten and entreating him for the strength within myself to make sure their sacrifices were not in vain.

I will commend the courage of the 4,435 who died standing up to the most powerful empire in the world, saying 'Enough! All men are created equal!"

I will regret the passing of those 2,260 who, in the War of 1812, gave their lives in a war which was fairly pointless, but none the less validated the United States as a power to rival those in Europe.

I will cherish the memory of 13,283 who followed the lead of a heroic few Texans who stood off an invading Mexican army.

I will weep bitter tears as I consider that 558,052 American men, women and children paid the ultimate price while fighting each other, and the result is a union that would never again be questioned. These people died in the cause of unity, and the nation they fought to save has gone on to lead the world.

I will consider what it must have been like for the 2,446 who died fighting a minor European power in 1898. Historically, the Spanish American War may be trivial, but they answered the call all the same.

I will give endless thanks that I did not have to experience the absolute horror of trench warfare in Europe, while honoring the 116,708 who were killed doing nothing less than standing against the Kaiser's crack troops, fresh from the Eastern front, expecting to roll the Allies into the channel. WWI could easily have been a German victory without them.

I will stand in awe of the willingness displayed by 407,316 ordinary men and women who left their homes and paid the ultimate price to ensure that fascism did not engulf the world and lead to the darkest time in history. The everyman of WWII is an amazing concept, yet that is how it has been throughout history. Just plain folks doing their duty.

I will reflect on how 33,651 Americans passed the torch of freedom from their failing hands to a little country called South Korea, proving that they may look different and speak what to us is a very strange language, but they are no less deserving of freedom than we.

I will ponder the plight of the Vietnam veteran, along with his 58,163 comrades who did not come home. How must it have been, to go to an unknown place, to fight and die for a people who often didn't want them there. How terrible to come home to a population who scorned them, whose only answer to the anguished plea, " I answered the call, I did my duty" was all too often a turned back?

I will rejoice that only 293 Americans were called to sacrifice themselves in 1991, but remember that thousands of opposing troops, people who do not have our freedom to set the course their government takes, died as well.

I will remember that the cost has been great, but celebrate that the results have been greater. As I raise my eyes again, and peer at the carved stone remembering only one such life, I will whisper from the depth of my soul the two words that are completely inadequate, and yet are all that I have to offer.


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posted by Open Blogger at 12:50 PM

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