Memorial Day 2015

For reasons that won’t be explained, this was the song I sang to my first child, my daughter, right after she was born and the nurse put her in my arms.

I’m not big on civic holidays, but honoring those who gave their lives for their country is the least I can do to show my respect for their sacrifice. It’s not about the worthiness of the cause, but about the human beings lost to war.

I suspect that some readers just can’t share this feeling, refusing or unable to separate the people who fought wars from the people who started them.  For me, they are entirely different.

23 thoughts on “Memorial Day 2015

  1. spudbeach

    Oh, I can separate the people who started the war from the people who fought the war. Can you separate the people who killed righteously from the people who killed wantonly? Can you separate the people who killed at My Lai (and its many unpublicized smaller bretheren, in all wars) from the people who didn’t? Really, it’s that easy? Until I can, I’m not going to glorify war or its participants.

    1. SHG Post author

      You don’t have to. This is about my thoughts on the subject. You’re entitled to your own. Then again, atrocities like My Lai no more tar all soldiers than the sacrifice of others excuses My Lai. Hating the bad doesn’t mean you can’t honor the good.

      1. spudbeach

        A couple of issues with your reply:

        1) There were a lot of atrocities committed in Vietnam. See the works of Nick Turse. There were so many that it seems to have been a policy.

        2) There are always a few bad apples. But there must be some sort of policy to identify and correct them, or the entire barrel will spoil. (There seemed to be a policy of “our boys didn’t do anything wrong”. See the letter writing campaign that led to a effective sentence of 3 1/2 years of house confinement for killing 22 people.)

        3) When you celebrate all without separating the bad, it seems that you are condoning the bad. Do you really want to do that? Would you do the same for cops, knowing all you know about how there are bad apples in that basket too? And how would that make the survivors of police abuse feel?

        4) I’d rather celebrate the people who refused to fight, thank you. When do we have conscientious objector day?

        1. SHG Post author

          Your point was clear the first time around. I disagree. Your pushing it is going to evoke a less temperate response. Only a simplistic fool sees the world as one-dimensional, all good or all bad. Not only “would I” do the same for cops, but I have. How “survivors of police abuse feel” has no bearing on reality, any more than how victims of crime feel about acquittal. If there was a conscientious objector day, I would celebrate that too. That’s the difference between our views.

        2. JohnC

          “When do we have conscientious objector day?”

          Sometime in May, I think. Been so for a while. I
          guess some sacrifices are more memorable than others.

          1. Not Jim Ardis

            Remember: Relatives who gamed the system to get classified as an objector do not appreciate it when you insinuate that said relative was stationed in Canada during Vietnam. They are also not fond of being asked “So, what’s it like getting the benefit of a presidential pardon” due to the fact that they “didn’t dodge anything, [the government] said he didn’t have to serve.”

            Also, sending him a card on May 15th (conscientious objector day, fyi) only makes holiday gatherings awkward.

          1. Rendall

            “No” is entire and whole and complete. And nevertheless, unclear.

            I’m going to speculate in the absence of explanation: you want her to grow up and become an army commando. There is no other logical explanation.

  2. David M.

    My grandfather was drafted out of the Hitler Youth into the Luftwaffe in ’43, when he was 16. In early ’45, he was assigned to man an AA gun, shooting at American planes. When the Americans crossed the Rhine in March and it was clear that the war was lost, he deserted along with a few of his high school classmates. They scrounged up a few supplies and split up, each man trying to reach his family. For my grandpa, that meant sneaking through the Ruhr pocket.

    About a week later, he was caught by a lone GI. It was dusk, and my grandpa, who’d been sheltering in a ditch, was getting ready to move on under cover of night when the GI stepped out from behind a tree. Grandpa was armed, though he’d shed the uniform, and the soldier held him at gunpoint.

    On his knees in a muddy ditch, an armed enemy combatant caught sneaking through occupied territory, he did the only thing he could think of. He said “please.” One word. In German. And after a long pause, the GI put up his gun, said “get up, boy,” and helped my grandpa out of what should have been his grave.

    So thank you. From three generations now to another, far greater than any of ours. Not only did they risk their lives, give their lives, to put an end to the awful evil of Nazi Germany, but they showed us mercy, even when none needed to be shown.

  3. Wrongway

    “I suspect that some readers just can’t share this feeling, refusing or unable to separate the people who fought wars from the people who started them. For me, they are entirely different.”

    Damn, if you can predict that, can you help me find my car keys that I lost in 1994 ??

    My youngest just graduated from Va. Tech as a 2Lt in the US Army.. It was his life long dream & I have to support him.. but I’m really worried about his timing.. but then again I worried when he crossed the street..
    Love the Men, but I sometimes hate their cause..
    Love your post, but that song.. not so much..

    1. SHG Post author

      Check the pocket of the old navy blue overcoat. No, not the outside one, the inside one. You’re welcome.

      And congratulations on your son. May he remain safe.

  4. John Barleycorn

    Childbirth and war usually have pretty interesting backstories. The Ballad of the Green Berets has an interesting back story as well.

    Perhaps one of these years the backstories of Memorial Day will escape the umbrella of war.

  5. Anton Sherwood

    Do you think that someone enlisting today has a reasonable expectation that he’s more likely to fight for Our Freedoms than for the greater glory of the Biparty and its donors?

    (Could that question be phrased more tactfully? Probably, by someone more skillful.)

    1. SHG Post author

      I post your question only to note its fallacy: service men and women serve for their country. Whether our country deserves their service has nothing to do with their choice to serve. Whether our political leaders deserve the authority to send soldiers into harm’s way has noting to do with their duty. Don’t confuse the principles of those who serve with your ideology.

      So yes, the men and women who serve in our military have every reasonable expectation to fight for our freedoms, and they always will, regardless of politics.

      1. Anton Sherwood

        I think I understand, as well as a non-nationalist can, the impulse to “serve for their country”. But I’m not sure I understand how you get from the beginning of your reply to the end.

        It’s natural for a criminal defense lawyer to hold that, for the integrity of the system, one must sometimes serve the least deserving of clients; and maybe by enlisting when the ‘client’ has considerable history of war crimes, one helps signal that soldiers will be ready if the nation itself – not only its rulers of the moment – ever has an acute need. So that’s one way of fighting for our freedom, if a very indirect one. Am I somewhere near the right page?

        Do you then honor the soldiers of every national force, including those who may from time to time kill your countrymen, on the same grounds? Or can there exist a regime so corrupt that one cannot be forgiven for choosing to serve it?

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  7. Curtis

    This is exactly how I feel and posted elsewhere. We can honor their courage and hardships. We can honor their warrior spirit. After all, at one time, America was a country of rifleman.

    But… here is a question for those who think they fought for our freedom. We’ll start at September 11, 2001. Since that day, can anyone tell me what freedoms we have gained, versus the freedoms we have lost?

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