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In Memory of Our Fallen Troops - In Good Wars and Bad

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The Memorial Day holiday in the U.S., celebrated on the last Monday in May, is a day set aside to honor the military men and women who have died in service to this country. I can think of no worthier reason for a holiday.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought in the American Revolution, who gave their lives to fight against the oppression of King George III, and who paved the way for this great experiment known as Democracy.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought for America in the War of 1812. Whether for the noble cause of defending American sovereignty against British invaders or the not-so-noble cause of American expansionism and conquering of the native peoples of this land, our American troops fought and died because they believed they were spreading freedom and democracy across this land.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought for America in the Mexican-American war. Though born of the concept of Manifest Destiny and perhaps seen by some as an opportunistic power/land grab, our American troops again rose to the call of duty. They fought and died because they believed in spreading the ideals on which this country was founded.

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On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought in the American Civil War. They fought this complex and bloody war to defend the Union and the social, political, and economic values for which it stands.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought in the Spanish-American War. They gave their lives to free Cuba from brutal oppression by its Spanish occupiers.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought in World War I. While President Wilson had tried to remain neutral in the war's early stages, German U-boat attacks on American merchant ships made our participation inevitable. Our troops bravely stood up to protect our nation's interests.

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On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought in World War II. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor threw this nation into the largest and deadliest war so far in history. Our American troops bravely fought with the Allies against the Axis Powers that were brutalizing much of Europe.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought in the Korean War. Though often called the "forgotten war", we must not forget those who fought and died to keep South Korea free.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought in the Vietnam War. They are perhaps our most under-appreciated war heroes, but we must remember that they did not choose to fight that war. They were the pawns of the Johnson and Nixon administrations, and administrations before them. The soldiers were just doing their job, and we must honor them for serving our nation, for good or for bad.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought in Operation Desert Storm. Under a United Nations mandate, our brave soldiers led an international coalition to liberate Kuwait.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought, and are still fighting, in Afghanistan, in Operation Enduring Freedom. These brave men and women are fighting and dying to avenge the attacks on America on 9/11. They remain there resolutely fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda even though vital resources were long since diverted to Iraq.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the brave troops who fought, and are still fighting, in Iraq, in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They were sent there under false pretenses, with inadequate supplies, to fight a war not of necessity but of choice -- George W. Bush's choice. The troops had no choice. And we still await the answer to a long-standing question: What is this noble cause for which our soldiers are dying in Iraq?

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Perhaps some day humankind will awaken to the realization that war and aggression are not the most effective way to resolve disputes, and we will appoint leaders who understand that true freedom can only be won through respect for the human rights of all.

In the meantime, whether you think a war is just or unjust, our soldiers must not take the blame for the follies of our leaders.

Regardless of the war they happen to be fighting, our troops deserve our full support. They were there when called to duty. They are America's truest heroes.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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