I was not going to post today because Monday holidays are not big blog days, but I am going to offer a few words about Memorial Day.
Born in the late 50’s, I was very aware of the Vietnam War as a kid. My parents shouted things like “Give ’em hell!” or “Beat those Commies!” or “America, love it or leave it!” They were no fans of peace protestors because WAR meant defending AMERICA. Now in fairness to my parents, both now of blessed memory, they came of age at other times, and they also truly appropriated the fear and hatred of communism that we associate with that time. I am by no means suggesting a love of communism, I’m just saying that the pushing up against it was the defining factor of much of the 50’s and 60’s.
We all knew people who were drafted, some in Vietnam, some got sent elsewhere. The only soldier that I knew who died during the Vietnam war was my neighbor. He was stationed in Germany and was due home. I was about 8 at the time, so I have no idea what happened, but apparently he got ill the day before he was supposed to depart for the US, and died. All the flags and banners that were hung days before came down, the old Italian ladies dressed in black, his fiancee was left to mourn her man. Everyone who was so relieved that he was not sent to southeast Asia was left drowning in a pool of tears.
Me? At age 8 I was already a peacenik-in-training. My 10 I was scrawling peace signs in the fogged windows of our car on long trips, with my father – himself a WWII Air Force vet – yelling at me to “cut the crap!” *sigh* Secretly I made peace signs with my fingers as I stared into the mirror when alone in the bathroom, and longed to run off with hippies.
Today I have lived through a number of conflicts beyond Vietnam. The first Gulf war, the second Iraq war, and of course Afghanistan. I have seen my nephew, who joined the Army around the time of the first Gulf war grow into someone he might not have been (read: it was good) had he not enlisted. Go figure. That’s why I am less of an absolutist than I might have been at another time.
So here we are celebrating Memorial Day, and I am left at a loss. How do we honor so many lives given in defense of our nation? And how do we justify the folly of war? As for me, I have a great deal of trouble reconciling the two… and trust me, I do not wish to disrespect or dishonor anyone who gave their life.
These are the things on my mind on this rainy Memorial Day. What do you think? I hope you return tomorrow, because I will be publishing an important guest post. The story that will be told humanizes the faces of different nations during a time of war – and forges bonds in these current days. It is very powerful, so please have a look.
And with that, I offer you a song. “A Soldier’s Things” by Tom Waits.