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Memorial Day — A Different View

May 30, 2011

In today’s San Jose Mercury News is a story about a Vietnam Vet who contacted the widow of his friend killed in 1968.  A line I found interesting was,  “for those like Rubalcaba who lost friends or family serving their country, it’s a day to honor their sacrifice”.  There are two things wrong with this statement, and they are almost contradictory.

The first is that we all should be remembering those that gave their lives for the freedom we enjoy.  Memorial Day has become a three-day weekend, a three-day excuse for sales at the mall, a weekend focused on the Indy 500, another chance for BBQs and beach trips.  The original purpose of this day was to remember the fallen in the Civil War and as a day of healing for the rift that war caused.  Sadly, the truth is that most of us don’t pause to reflect on those who have died and mainly it is  only the “friends or family” who are remembering.

The second thing I find wrong is “to honor their sacrifice”.  If we are talking about remembering and honoring those who died for our country’s freedom, I stop at those who fought in World War II or before.  In my view, those killed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan were sacrificed.  WWII was the last time we were confronted with an actual threat by those seeking world domination.  The wars since have been political incursions that only served to leave us with men and women who should have never died.  9/11 was an attack on us, our response was misguided.

One would have thought that after Vietnam and the political unrest of the 60’s and 70’s that we would have learned something, but Iraq proved we did not.  So if nothing else, Memorial Day has become a mirror of our own apathy.  While you may feel some guilt for not pausing today to remember the fallen, maybe we should feel more guilt for letting them fall.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Betty permalink
    May 30, 2011 4:32 pm

    You are correct using the word sacrifice. So many of the soldiers killed in Vietnam were drafted. Unwilling pawns in a political game.

    Although, we no longer have the draft, many young people do not join up to go to war. They join for money for college or in many cases, just to have a job in this economic climate.

    There is a different mind set now. Young men and women are joining to fight a cause, even if it is misguided. However, they want to go their duty and come home. My niece’s son was killed in Iraq. He just wanted to do his duty, come home to New Orleans and open a tavern.

    I watched a show last night on PBS, “My Vietnam, Your Iraq.” It highlighted families whose fathers fought in Vietnam and now their children were going to the middle east. It broke my heart.

    As a child of the Vietnam era, I cannot help but compare the public’s opinion of the wars we are currently engaged in. The soldiers now are coming home as heroes, adored by civilians. During the Vietnam war, soldiers were spat on when they came home.

    We did not learn anything from the Vietnam conflict. And they didn’t even have oil fields. (OMG don’t’ get me started there!!)

    We have killed Bin Laden, we can now bring the troops home.

    • drdongrant permalink*
      May 30, 2011 7:20 pm

      thanks for your thoughts on this, if we all got a little angry maybe we could change things!!

  2. May 30, 2011 4:58 pm

    In the UK we have remembrance day, which is in November.

    • drdongrant permalink*
      May 30, 2011 7:21 pm

      Let’s hope it is less of a marketing tool than it is here

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