|American casualties returning to Dover AFB|
For the past several days, I've been thinking and remembering the the men and women who lost their lives in the many wars over the course of the history of our country and wondering what I might write to pay tribute to them. Sad to say, new graves for the fallen are still being dug today, for the US seems to be in a place of perpetual war.
Old anti-war songs come to mind like Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", Bob Dylan's "With God on Our Side", and Eric Bogle's "The Green Fields of France".
The other day I read an essay by Jennie Haskemp in the Washington Post titled, "I'm a veteran, and I hate 'Happy Memorial Day.' Here's why." The essay is quite moving, but it's a tough read. Haskemp is a Marine Corps veteran, who lost a number of friends and acquaintances, and she should know.
That’s when it hit me. I’m angry. I’ve come to realize people think Memorial Day is the official start of summer. It’s grilled meat, super-duper discounts, a day (or two) off work, beer, potato salad and porches draped in bunting.
But it shouldn’t be. It’s more than that.
How is it then, some century and a half later, after more than a decade of war in two countries that claimed the lives of some 6,861 Americans, we are collectively more concerned with having a barbecue and going shopping than pausing to appreciate the cost of our freedom to do so?
A friend reminded me that plenty of people use the weekend the way it was designed: to pause and remember the men and women who paid the price of our freedom, and then go on about enjoying those freedoms.
But I argue not enough people use it that way. Not enough people pause. Not enough people remember.
I’m frustrated by people all over the country who view the day as anything but a day to remember our WAR DEAD. I hate hearing “Happy Memorial Day.”
It’s not Veterans Day. It’s not military appreciation day. Don’t thank me for my service. Please don’t thank me for my service. It’s take the time to pay homage to the men and women who died while wearing the cloth of this nation you’re so freely enjoying today, day.
The photo at the head of the post of the coffins of service members returning to the US from Iraq and Afghanistan to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, is memorable, because publication of pictures was banned for 18 years out of concern for the privacy of the families of the fallen, until Defense Secretary of Defense Robert Gates lifted the ban in 2009. The decision was controversial within the military and within military family organizations
Gates said he came to the conclusion that "we should not presume to make the decision for the families; we should actually let them make it."
Under the new policy, photographs will not be permitted of a coffin if a family says no. The policy is similar to one in place for funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.
Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets.org, an anti-Iraq war group that says it has 15,000 military families as members, said he was pleased with the decision.
"So many Americans want to have Memorial Day once a year, when they go to the beach and cook hot dogs in the backyard," Soltz said.