Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer in the temperate zone of the Northern hemisphere, and for Dwight and I who, like many of our peers, grew up with World War II veterans as grandparents, Memorial Day has always been a schizoid holiday. The somber decorating of graves and remembering of the dead doesn't mix easily with barbecues and parades. Dwight has more reason to feel ambivalent about the day, as his grandfather died of a cold that developed into pneumonia after visiting graves one cold wet Memorial Day. We were lucky to grow up knowing only an all-volunteer military force in the US, which was not the case for our parents or grandparents. We also grew up in a time of relative peace, with the only active conflict that either of us knew of being Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, and those really didn't impact us to a great degree. From a historical standpoint, we were very lucky.
And then came September 11, 2001. What followed has been over a decade of the War on Terror since the Authorization of Military Force. My son has grown up his entire life in a state of war, exactly the opposite of Dwight and my experience. Strangely, I don’t know that those differences have made much of an impact on his life to this point. While I’m glad that he still has a sense of security and Dwight and I have tried to foster that, I’m not sure what it says about our nation that we can accept a state of perpetually heightened security as a normal thing with no consequences. There is no real news coverage, and it’s been quite some time since much discussion about this state of affairs has occurred. Even the protests within our country of the use of military force are barely a blip on the news radar lately.
What happened to the world where we honored the fallen in part by not jumping into protracted wars? Or maybe I’m being nostalgic and it never existed, I don’t know. Either way, it seems to me that a better way to those who have died in service to our country would be to do our best to prevent similar deaths in the future. I realize this is a crazy idea, but it was one that I was glad to hear somewhat spoken to by the president on Thursday. His words weren't perfect, but they were far better than what I've come to expect from him over his first term. Of course, this is from the woman who takes pride in her family history of pacifism. All I know is that freedom isn't free, and I say thanks every day to those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, I just wish our politicians should show some appreciation and stop creating more war-dead.