Memorial Day is a holiday that most Americans take for granted. They enjoy the unofficial start of summer by making their first pilgrimage to the beach or by celebrating in the backyard with a barbecue. It is a joyous occasion where people relax, eat, drink, soak up the sun and hang out with friends. But the majority of Americans don’t even realize why they have the day off from work.
A few Americans actually follow the spirit of the federal holiday and remember those who have died “defending” their freedom in wars waged by the U.S. Government. Unfortunately, the list who have died fighting and dying at the behest of politicians is still growing longer everyday. Those names of the dead and maimed are continually added to the over 1.3 million who’ve already died and to the other 1.5 million who have been wounded fighting under the banner of Old Glory.
But does any citizen really understand why the 2.8 million fellow Americans were killed or wounded fighting in wars waged by the U.S. Government? Most people believe that all the wars the U.S. has fought have been to make the “world (including the U.S. homeland) safe for Democracy? But when you delve deeper beyond the patriotic propaganda of why the wars were truly waged in the past and continue to be waged in the present you begin to find a disturbing pattern of why the United States Government goes to war. We should all remember on this Memorial Day that the wars that the United States of America has waged, have been waged not to protect our freedom but to enrich a very few at the expense of the very many.
“It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country … in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray-haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for their country, for us. All we can do is remember.” ~ President Ronald Reagan
Memorial Day, like Independence Day and Veterans Day, are holidays which evoke mixed emotions in me. On the one hand, it is proper and fitting that we honor the sacrifices of those brave men and women who fought, and sometimes died, in the defense of American freedom, and often for freedom of those not of our nation. We are able to more greatly appreciate their sacrifices when we contemplate the suffering that they endured for their family, their nation and their posterity.
No student of history can fail to understand that our republic would never have come into existence, and never have endured for nearly two and a half centuries, without the unsung heroes of our armed forces; the men who marched with General George Washington towards Trenton on Christmas Eve of 1776, many malnourished and with feet bloodied and torn for lack of shoes, wrapped in burlap sacks. Without these men and their triumph over the Hessian mercenaries, the Revolutionary War would have ended shortly thereafter, with soldiers demoralized after a long series of battles lost, their commanders and the Founding Fathers hunted down and executed for treason.
I write this on May 24, the eve of Memorial Day, the day set aside to commemorate Americans who have died while in military service. This day was originally created (the first commemoration was May 30, 1868) to honor Union soldiers of the War Between the States, and was later expanded after World War I to include all those who have died in military service. Typically, commemorations can be expected to include much in the way of what is considered “patriotic” music (more accurately described as nationalistic), along with tributes themed along the lines of thanking those “who fight for our freedoms.” This spills over into Sunday services of many churches around the nation, when the emphasis temporarily focuses away from the praise of God and the proclamation of the Gospel, towards one of military service and national greatness.