Memorial Day: Bought and Paid For…

Vietnam Memorial Wall

This is my post from 2015. Nothing to add.

Today is Memorial Day. It seems bittersweet to say “Happy Memorial Day” as this day was bought and paid for with the blood of those men and women (and dogs) who gave their lives so that the rest of us can breathe free.

Those of us who are Boomers, and those who are older, all know people who have served in war. Most of us know people who never returned. We know people who fled to avoid conscription.

Younger people? To the vast majority of them, war is an abstraction. Currently, less than one half of one percent of Americans are active duty military. Veterans? A little over 7%. (Source) Those who gave their lives and have living relatives? Unknown but given the other numbers, it can’t be that high. As compared to earlier times, at least.

When I was growing up, there were so many, mainly men, family members who had served in WW2 and Korea. As a child, my dentist and my chiropractor had concentration camp numbers burned into their arms, and it was so clear what Americans had died for: to save as many as they could from genocide.

And going all the way back to the birth of America: those who gave their lives to form our country, to protect us during the War of 1812, the rupture that was the Civil War. How different the world would be had things turned out differently.

Wars since Vietnam have been so different. Just shrug and ask why. I look at the world today, mired in so many conflicts, all dating back to the errors made by the Bushies and their neocon allies. Had we not wrongly invaded Iraq there would be no ISIS. No Arab Spring (which really hasn’t worked out the way anyone wanted). No thousands of humans dying in the Mediterranean trying to escape North Africa. No 3 million Syrian refugees.

There are tens of thousands American soldiers dead and seriously injured thanks to Shrub and his minions. And, as a country, do we honour their service? No. We should have learned from how terribly we treated returning Vietnam soldiers: it’s okay to hate the war while simultaneously embracing those who fought (whether by conscription or volunteerism). Our soldiers came back to a VA that wouldn’t treat their physical and emotional wounds garnered through multiple deployments. A system that allows for the families of those who serve to require Food Stamps. The list goes on….

So reflect today: war is always terrible for those involved, made worse by wars with no purpose, declared or undeclared. Charlie Rangel has had it right since the first Gulf War. Bring back the draft as a buffer against invasions, incursions and war. Give thanks for those who lost their lives over the centuries so you could spend today with your friends and families, grilling, swimming, enjoying the breathing of free air. And as always, commit to voting out the monsters that most recently got us here.

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