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Memorial Day: Remember, honor the fallen

 

Though summer is a month away, Memorial Day has become the traditional launch date for the summer season, with all the accompanying hype about barbecues, picnics, the end of school for many, the start of vacation season for many others.

And while all of that is true, we need to take the time to remember and honor the reason we have this holiday: our veterans and our soldiers on active duty.

War has littered America’s historical landscape, beginning with the Revolutionary War that forged the democracy we live in. The Civil War bloodied our own soil in a way that World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam, did not, though those wars took an enormous toll on American soldiers and their families. There have been other battles along the way, inclduing the much more recent and controversial Gulf Wars I and II (a.k.a the Iraq war).

Memorial Day, though, is not about plans or policies or civil disobedience. It is about honor. Respect. That is the starting point of the day.

Many of us have veterans in our families or in our ancestry. My own uncle was a WWII prisoner of war who never understood my opposition to war when Vietnam changed the face of conflict. Nor would he have understood my current anti-war activism. Yet one of the things he and all of our soldiers defended was our constitutional right to disagree. I was proud to be at his side when he passed on, some fifty years after the ravages of war irrevocably altered the rest of his life. I passed his medals on to the next generation — my children and grandchildren. To remember.

Ceremonies, services and vigils are being held around the city, across the country, at various monuments or parks and by various groups, even as 150,000+ American troops continue to put their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. Regardless of whether we support the current war or not, we should pause and honor the fallen, and those who serve on the front lines as well. We also need to consider the fate of our emotionally, spiritually and physically wounded veterans.

As we move through the weekend, pause and remember, take a moment of silence to honor the fallen men and women of our armed services.


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