Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Most Americans have never heard a shot fired in anger, either on foreign battlefields or what have sometimes been called the “mean streets” of home.
Most Americans have not had to take up arms to stop a threat to their homes or their country.
Most Americans have not been called to a place where they might have to sacrifice their lives in order to save the life of a companion or friend.
Most Americans have not been called to leave the comfort of their homes to live in desolate places under harsh conditions for days, weeks, months on end.
Today is a day to remember the sacrifice of those who have, so that you may not have to.

I’d like to leave you with the words of one such veteran as a part of your remembrance of this day. The speaker’s identity, for the moment, unimportant. Listen to the words:

Unless you are a veteran you might find it odd that I would be indebted to the Navy for sending me to war. You might mistakenly conclude that the secret veterans' share is that they enjoyed war.

We do share a secret, but it is not a romantic remembrance of war. War is awful. When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue. Nothing, not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. War is wretched beyond description. Whatever gains are secured by war, it is loss that the veteran remembers. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the cruel and merciless reality of war.

Neither do we share a nostalgia for the exhilaration of combat. That exhilaration, after all, is really the sensation of choking back fear. I think we are all proud to have once overcome the paralysis of terror. But few of us are so removed from the memory of that terror to mistake it today for a welcome thrill.

What we share is something harder to explain. It is in part a pride for having sacrificed together for a cause greater than our individual pursuits; pride for having your courage and honor tested and affirmed in a fearsome moment of history; pride for having replaced comfort and security with misery and deprivation and not been broken by the experience.

We also share -- and this is harder to explain -- the survivors' humility. That's a provocative statement, I know, and the non-veteran may easily mistake its meaning. I am not talking about shame. I know of no shame in surviving combat. But every combat veteran remembers those comrades whose sacrifice was eternal. Their loss taught us everything about tragedy and everything about duty.

Duty. Honor. Country. And remembrance. Share the spirit of Memorial Day with those you love.

Cross Posted at Say Anything

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