Since the beginning of the twentieth century some 650,000 Americans have died fighting this Country's many wars. Regardless of political affiliation and ideology, every American ought reverence such selfless sacrifice and understand and share the grief that this tragic loss of life entails. Though those of us who have known war hear the cries of the dying forever in our mind and suffer the pain and loss each day of our lives and need no holiday to remind us, Memorial Day is the occasion this nation sets aside to remember, to grieve, and to honor those who chose or were compelled to sacrifice their lives in behalf of a causein which theybelieved or were told was just.
Air shows, "exciting" demonstrations of the high tech, billion dollar, implements of war have become an increasingly popular way to "celebrate" Memorial Day in many parts of the Country. The Southern Wisconsin Air fest, and Missouri's Salute to Veterans 2010 are just two examples. Attracting thousands, in some casestens of thousands, these extravaganzas have become prime locations for military recruitment. The Army's "Strength in Action Tour" regularly exploits such events "entertaining," "informing", and ultimately motivating young people to enlist. With its enormous budget, Army recruiters set up what is, for all intents and purposes, a mobile military circus and amusement arcade. Passersby, some as young as ten years old, need only provide their contact information into the Army database to receive an array of Army recruitment material and souvenirs personalized dog tags, tee shirts, hats, footballs, etc. Once registered, students are encouraged to become "Army Strong," that is, participate in interactive physical fitness events such as climbing the "U.S. Army Rock Wall" ("strength of body," "rock strong"), "perform virtual music" on a stage in front of their peers ("strength to lead"), operate small remote control robotic devices known as Packbots through an obstacle course ("strength of technology"), "pilot" an Apache helicopter flight simulator ("strength to soar"), or "participate in a fully immersive, adrenaline-pumping, highly realistic (Humvee) experience" in which they conduct a "virtual mission," engage "insurgents," and kill them ("strength of team").
Sadly, Americans need to be reminded that Memorial Day is not about sales at the mall, barbecues, and picnics. Neither is it a time to celebrate militarism, the machinery of war, or entice young people, through highly manipulative and deceptive practices, into enlisting in the military. While such spectacles may be exhilarating to some and perhaps suitable for other occasions (perhaps Armed Forces Day or the Fourth of July), they are totally inappropriate and irreverent during the only time of the year set aside for remembering and grieving those who made the ultimate sacrifice, Memorial Day weekend.
Most importantly, it is not about exploiting patriotism and the sacrifices of our young Servicemen and Women for purposes of commercial marketing and corporate profit. The following is an excerpt from the Bethpage Federal Credit Unions 2009 New York Air Show Website, perhaps the mother of all such "celebrations" of the implements of death and destruction.