I am the sole surviving son of a US Serviceman killed in action. My father was a Sergeant in the US Army and he was killed in Berlin on the day after I was born in April 1945. I was raised by a stepfather who served in the Pacific setting up (what we would call today) the Instrument Landing System for the returning bombers after their bombing forays into Japan and the other Pacific islands ruled by Japan.
I know we argue a lot about war and politics in this country, but I don't think that a person needs to go to war to realize the horror, and the destructive and coercive forces on the souls of the participants in war. I was almost ashamed to be a liberal when I saw the reactions and actions of the left to the returning Vietnam soldiers. I stopped supporting the Vietnam war about 1967, but I never held the war against our youth who were dragged away from their homes to become soldiers. Those who enlisted were no more culpable because the propaganda machine of the Military Industrial Complex is immense.
It became an unpopular war, but our returning soldiers should have been treated with respect and compassion. Most of all they should have been given any medical and psychiatric care that they needed. The figures on the increased rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, spousal abuse, jail time and homelessness for the Vietnam vet compared with non-vets is an indictment against our government. And the average Vietnam vet only spent one year in 'Nam. Can you imagine what the Iraq/Afghanistan vet's lives will be like after their multiple tours and when the head injuries are combined with PTSD? I am scared to think about it.
I don't like war. I don't see glory in killing machines or killing. I am not naive enough however to think that all war is unavoidable. We are in two wars at the present time. One war was started to bring to justice the people who planned, supported and financed the attacks of 911. The other war is a war of choice which we became embroiled in because of lies and distortions. I support the war in Afghanistan, but not the one in Iraq. Just like I believe the war now known as WW2 was justified, but the war in Vietnam was not. However, any soldier who risks his life or limbs by putting himself in harm's way under the direction of this country deserves our gratitude whether he was defending his country or just believed he was defending his country due to the lies of our government (no matter which political party was in charge).
One of my earliest memories is of my mother crying outside our Catholic Church while the priest was blessing the souls of all the military personal who had sacrificed their lives. I was too young to understand at the time, but now I realize the sacrifice my family and many, too many other families have had to make over the years. I would like to see all war ended, but until that is possible, I want to see all wars that can be avoided without sacrificing our nation's security avoided. Dying in defense of one's country is the most gallant sacrifice a person can make, though still a tragedy. Dying for a mistake or a lie by the leaders of one's country is the most disgraceful tragedy I can think of.
I do not celebrate Memorial day with barbecues or other frivolities. I commiserate, contemplate, mourn, and consider the sacrifices of our fallen heroes, and I dream of the day that we will spend as much time celebrating the people who can finally put an end to the need for Holidays like Memorial Day as we spend on our fallen heroes today.