Here in the U.S., it’s Memorial Day, a national holiday established long ago to commemorate the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Even though my own long-dead father was himself a decorated Marine Corps vet and my brother-in-law is a veteran of the Gulf War, I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a while to separate my feelings about people who served in combat from my feelings about the wars in which they served — or about war in general. About the only time I feel warlike is when I’m listening to warlike metal. I think the last war that was worth fighting (for my country) was the one in Korea, and sometimes I’m not even sure about that one.
I did finally realize what should be obvious to people smarter than me — that soldiers and sailors and airmen do not start wars or decide which wars are worth fighting. They simply do their duty, and they become maimed, suffer mental trauma, and die because of decisions made by others who put them in harm’s way. They deserve to be honored for reasons that have nothing to do with whether the causes in which they sacrifice themselves are worth their sacrifices. They deserve to be remembered and supported even when the conflicts in which they have served are insupportable.
Memorial Day should be a day not only for remembering the dead but also for remembering the living — not only people who are currently serving in the Armed Forces but also veterans. The U.S. has done a piss-poor job of supporting its military veterans. Our government is willing to spend trillions of dollars to finance wars and huge defense establishments, but what we spend to support people after they’ve served their purpose and been discharged — especially those who have been disabled during their service — is shameful. Continue reading »