My wife, Kathy, & I went to a Memorial Day ceremony at the local Veterans Cemetery. We talked about it a few days ago, she had the day off and either of us could have come up with 100 reasons to not go. We did not take any of our cameras, although many were present. We simply chose to honor in our own way. Perhaps next year we'll do it in a different way. After all, today there was an orchestra, a bag piper, Patriot Riders, speeches, and maybe even a partridge in a pear tree.
We were tired. The weather was questionable. The sun was in our eyes. It might be crowded. I won't even try to fill out the other 96 reasons. Those we honor frequently had no choice in the matter, and were probably much more inconvenienced and sacrificed far beyond my having to get out of bed as a gesture of remembrance. Having said that, I won't be camping or having a barbecue this weekend. Unlike some, I do not view it as another 3-day weekend and an excuse to party.
I served 20 years in the United States Air Force, and I am proud of that fact. The local Veterans cemetery is beginning to be filled with those who served, and perhaps I shall join them some day.
Some of them died on the field of battle. Some of them came home and died in manners that will ultimately claim us all. Injury, disease or old age... we shall all be claimed. Life is a terminal illness. We all become scarred by the trauma of life. We live, we love, we lose, if we are cursed or blessed with enough time in this realm.
I do sometimes wonder if we, the survivors of the folly know as "war", are worthy of the blood sacrifice they paid. This was not my first remembrance ceremony, and frankly, I hate these times. They rip my guts out. I hate the sound of "Taps." I have difficulty retaining my composure. I have participated at Margraten in the Netherlands, and have visited the cemeteries at Omaha Beach and Luxembourg. I hate funerals in general, but believe in honoring and paying respect to the departed. But military cemeteries... well, if you want to analyze it, many "residents" are murder victims who died without choice, and they generally lie near where they fell.
I have the privilege of choosing where I finally lie. Many, if given the choice, would prefer to walk among us, to love their wives and family members, to see their children grow, prosper, and live their full lives.
I am frequently struck by the futility of war. I think of the waste, the want, the tragedy and loss. Cities built brick by brick, by masons and carpenters, laid to waste by an airplane or artillery piece with a pile of explosives. The energy expended by construction, that could be better spent by curing disease, or finding a new method of adhesive, or... you name it.
Why do we allow this insanity to prevail in our sundry affairs? I am not blaming the fallen, but should not we, the standing, endeavor to prevent this?
We have reached international accords to ban chemical and biological weapons, and some agreement on nuclear non-proliferation. Is it not outside of the realm so say that perhaps war is immoral?
Of course, every people has the right to self-preservation, to get up the next day and eat another Pop-Tart. But is not avoiding war the best manner to preserve our way of life? In what manner shall we propagate that message?
Or what method shall you continue? Do you wish to further war?
Is it not better to remember those who have died, and to prevent further sacrifice?
To take from Abraham Lincoln:
"...in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
Today, my wife and I walked among the headstones. We passed a place where a young lady, dressed nicely was kneeling along side a headstone. There were two toddlers with her.
I wanted to know her story, I wanted to hear what she had to say. I assume it was her husband whose grave she knelt by. I did not ask, I did not want to intrude into that moment. But I wanted to know the story, for what better way to be immortalized than to be remembered by others?
I left her and her toddlers. I wonder what story is to be told. I wonder what story will never be written. I wonder....