My dad, quite draft-worthy, escaped World War II by working in a war-related industry. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice. He was paid well. My brother, a college grad in 1969, avoided the draft by joining the Navy’s officer candidate school along with a lot of other like-minded college grads, so many, in fact, that the Navy had to winnow the troops. He got his honorable discharge just a few months after he joined, mainly because the Navy was over-enrolled.
I was in the draft lottery and had a low number, but just then, they discontinued the draft. All-right!
So, on a personal basis, Memorial Day doesn’t quite touch me.
On the other hand, this may seem over-dramatic but there’s a First Amendment that lets people like me (and you) write and say just about anything. I’m happy it’s there. I mean, I’m really happy about that and I often think about all the freedoms we have.
The way the military has evolved, we now have a bunch of soldiers who are killed or maimed and we don’t know much about them. We don’t know anything much about them because the whole military thing is far from our experience. Other people serve. Nobody we know.
“At any given time in the past decade, less than 1 percent of the American population has been on active military duty, compared with 9 percent of Americans who were in uniform in World War II,” reported The New York Times. “As a result, there is a growing generation gap, with younger Americans far less likely than older ones to have a family member who served.”
My simple point or plea, today, is during the long Memorial Day weekend, think about those men and women who really put themselves in harm’s way over the history of this country.
Not every war they fought was admirable in every way but they didn’t choose the wars. We, the non-combatants, did, through leaders we elected. It is literally true that thousands of soldiers got to die for their country before they ever got a chance to vote for the leaders who sent them into battle.
But they are heroes, too, who fought and suffered in almost unimaginable ways. They ought to be remembered. There’s a video that just popped up on YouTube about a Korean War veteran who was stunned, and then infuriated, when he saw the paltry turn out for the Memorial Day commemoration in his home town. In this video he’s moved to tears to recall that day.
There are over a million YouTube videos with “Memorial Day” references, though some are trailers for the movie, some are for recipes, some are too flag-wavy, some are too pro-gun. And you know what? That’s America. As unconscious and fractious as we wanna be, and still the land of the (relatively) free.
Be thankful for all of that, and remember.