Memorial Day is upon us – and not just a day but the annual barbecue-and-bargains weekend blast, extended by some retailers to “Memorial Week.”
We annually deplore the distortion of what should be a national day of mourning, but “Memorial Week” is not such a terrible idea – if the week is spent in remembrance of and gratitude to the war dead. We’d settle for awareness.
The New York Times reported last week that this nation has passed a “grim milestone”: The number of U.S. service personnel dead in Afghanistan has passed the 1,000 mark. (The Times has been accused of jumping the gun, so to speak, by “bundling” accident-related deaths, fatal illnesses, and suicides with at least 969 combat-related deaths, some of which occurred outside of Afghanistan and six that occurred at Guantanamo Bay. The Times explained in a blog that it “decided to include those deaths because the troops’ responsibilities included guarding detainees captured in the Afghanistan war.” If you ask us, all those deaths are directly attributable to the war. And if you feel the count is a stretch, just wait – there’ll be more.)
Meanwhile, according to GlobalSecurity.org, close to 4,300 Americans have been killed on duty in Iraq.
So many of those dead, in both our current conflicts, are young. They leave parents and siblings. Some were in committed relationships; some leave young children to make their way in this increasingly difficult world without their guidance.
And of course there are the dead in other wars – some of long ago, but we still mourn them, or should. The loss of all that youth and purpose and life is the nation’s.
So go ahead: March in your town’s parade but remember what that parade is for. Shop the stores and heat up the grill, but take a little time to remember those who fought and died – and still fight and die – for your leisure and freedom.