Memorial Day 2012

One of the few holidays I’ve recognized  year after year is Memorial Day.  There are few things more real than young men and women dying. Via Ken Lammers at CrimLaw :



As a parent, an old man, an American, a person who gives a damn, I grieve when I see this image.  I don’t care about their politics, the number of twitter followers or whether they have an iPhone.  I feel what their parents, spouses, children and friends feel. 

General George Patten, a tough old man, famously said :


The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

If only it were that simple.  And to tell you the truth, I can’t seem to muster enough hatred to want the other poor bastard to die either, except to the extent it saves the life of a young American who has done nothing more than offered his or her life to defend us.

The other day, I twitted about this.


They did not give their lives for iPads, political parties, more laws or bigger prisons. They gave their lives for freedom. Honor it.

Yet most people who bother to give it any thought at all will use it to further their own agenda.  As Kris Kristofferson wrote, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.  You can drape flags over the coffins, but the young men and women inside are beyond caring about the accoutrements the living place around them for their own sake.  They gave it all, and have nothing left to lose.  Rather than use them, honor them.

10 comments on “Memorial Day 2012

  1. tom felding

    If freedom is not really under threat, where does that leave those who died “defending” it? Not to take away anything from your sincerely held beliefs, but I’m far more ambivalent about this. As somebody who willingly went to Vietnam, after a while we did not feel we were defending any principle or even country – just each other.

  2. SHG

    Funny. Back then, I would have thought Vietnam laid waste to the naive notion that war was for principle, and perhaps it did for a generation. I think things are different today, and though most of the thought is simplistic, we’ve somehow returned to a belief that there are principles behind sending our children to war, and to die.

    I wish I thought this meant we learned from Vietnam, but I don’t. Instead, I think we, as a nation, have returned to a simpler age, where we were more naive and gullible, and saw no reason to think any deeper than platitudes.

    Still, I need to attribute something to the deaths of so many young people, and so I choose freedom.

  3. SHG

    No reason to thank me. I sit in the comfort of SJ World Headquarters pondering which of two homemade pies to eat this evening. The worst thing I can suffer is a paper cut.

  4. tom felding

    Nowadays there are far fewer deaths really, given the length of the current wars due to their asymmetrical nature (which is little comfort to those who deal with loss of loved ones). That is a problem really – most people don’t have to bear the brunt of the war – it happens out of sight. My son works as an army medic in Afghanistan and even he is more affected by the deaths of civilians than soldiers though he tends to both. It is not as raw as it used to be for us – which means there is no fervent push to end it. I mostly hear arguments for ending the wars because of lack of success not whether the price for success is worth paying.

  5. Onlooker

    We can just let drones do all the dirty work for us. It’s the best of all worlds.

    Here’s to hoping your son doesn’t have to be remembered on future Memorial Days.

  6. Jeff Vail

    As a relatively new solo attorney, I enjoy your writing–it makes me look in the mirror and ask the difficult questions about myself, my practice, and my profession. As a disabled veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, from which several close friends did not return, I am in awe of individuals’ capacity for selflessness at times. I am not sure I am naive, brave, or selfless enough today to make the same choices I made at 17. I know that as a 25 year old Captain I was not brave enough to say no when my country asked. I know that, as a former intelligence officer, things are not always as they seem. I am wise enough to understand that my opinions will drift as I hopefully gain in wisdom (though I am not smart enough to know their future trajectory!). But I can say this with great confidence: we should honor those who have fallen for the principles on which our country was founded, but we should be even more focused on our own choices and whether we are asking our young men and women to make sacrifices because we are not willing to. We should honor by example.

  7. SHG

    Some argue that by sanitizing war, we’ve progressed. As your son knows, it’s not sanitized for everyone. But for those of us who watch from a safe distance, we never risk getting anybody’s blood splattered on us, so we can afford to discuss the philosophical questions.

  8. Dan Hull

    Very nicely said. All I want to force myself to think about is horror and sacrifice–not glory or honor–on days like June 6, 1944 and any day like it. And I am shamed and awed when I think about how truly paltry, small and silly most of us are stacked up along side people who died fighting in any war. Crazy-brave, frightened, or somewhere in between, it’s a hell of a thing most of us can’t even imagine. It cuts into, destroys and topples nearly every truth, and certainly every platitude.

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