There are lots of ways to get to four and there are lots of ways of thinking about Memorial Day. Some confuse it with Veterans Day which is in November and used to be called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of WWI just as Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and honored the Union Dead of the Civil War. Two states I know of still hold events to honor the Confederate Dead but that is becoming politically incorrect in that history continues to be rewritten because, as we know, the winners get to write the history and the losing side must always be demonized to make the winners feel good in their virtual uprightness.
Now the point is just this: Memorial Day is a day to honor those soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, WACS, WAFS, WAVES, Merchant Marines, Red Cross members and, in my opinion, anyone else who lost their life serving the United States of America at home or abroad. And it on this I wish to opine. When you’re about to lose your life only about .001% are thinking that they’re about to lose their life for something noble in idea or spirit. The other 99.999% are just doing what they are supposed to be doing and if it is in combat they are thinking of someway to get out of the situation they’re currently in. Trust me, no one in combat is thinking about the flag or Mom or Apple Pie or equality or any of those other ideals to which those left behind attribute the loss of friend or loved one. When a heroic deed is done it is generally done on behalf of the others with whom the hero is serving but the government and others will attribute it to love of freedom or some other such device to inspire the public. Some will do it to assuage their guilt at having caused the situation wherein the heroism was necessary. And thus, on Memorial Day the politicians will make speeches and lay wreaths and bask themselves in the reflected glory of the heroes with whom they have little in common except on Memorial Day.
Now I may sound a little cynical but in actuality I’m a lot cynical, for when a politician who has not served uses the dead to exhort the living they are no better than the pretenders who walk around in uniforms stealing the accolades of those who died while serving. Stolen honor it is called. The dead do not call to us from the grave to defend liberty or honor or equality but they do remind us that serving our fellow man is a far greater thing than following a flag or a politician. For in emulating their devotion to those around them we will find our way to liberty and honor and equality. So on Memorial Day think not of sacrifices for Nation, Flag or Country but of duty to others and the duty to be true to ourselves.
I have these thoughts because I once was associated with a group of people who, on the ground and away from the flight line, could be just as petty and miserable as any other group of people ten thousand miles from home but who, when duty called them to the flight line or into the air, became heroes everyone. So if you’re looking for a little guidance on Memorial Day between the steaks and the beer consider this motto as a personal manta: “These Things We Do That Others May Live.”
Have a safe Memorial Day.