Memorial Day – Observe or Mourn?

Monday we observe, honor, celebrate (?), our military dead. I wrote last fall a little about my struggle with aspects of armed service given my leanings to non-violence. I am moved to tears each time I see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the somber USS Arizona where 1,102 men are entombed, and the vastness of Arlington National Cemetery. Clearly we need a strong defense. I would take up arms to protect my family and community from invasion.

So many wars and “conflicts”, however, are not about defending anything. Over 700,000 troops died during the civil war. Slavery was just one factor – economics and states’ rights (sound familiar ?) also were  important causes. WWII was seen as a “good war” because we were attacked, and the U.S. was instrumental in liberating Europe from Hitler.  Over 400,000 American troops died. Yet the number of dead soldiers does not begin to count the costs of war. Perhaps they are just they easiest to identify and quantify. This quote from former President Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Allied Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in WWII, has resonated with me for years: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Peace to those who have lost loved ones fighting in armed conflict for our government. Strength to all who struggle for peace among nations.

Monday is not meant to be about barbeque, shopping, or outdoor fun. Take a little time to observe Memorial day in your own manner.

child at grave marker

Arlington National Cemetery

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

Afghani war widow

Afghani war widow

war orphans from sierra leone

Sierra Leone war orphans