Who Needs Memorial Day?
It is important that we remember our soldiers, but I don’t need a special day or a sticker on my car to remember them.
I think about soldiers all the time. I lost a friend in Desert Storm. He was in the Special Forces, so we didn’t even know he was there until after he was killed. I was so proud of him, and so sad when I heard he died. I couldn’t believe it, and I was really annoyed with the secrecy surrounding the Special Forces. People Magazine did a special on the soldiers lost in Desert Storm and he wasn’t in it because the Special Forces cannot reveal their location. I understand the secrecy but I still didn’t like it. America felt different after he died. Not better or worse. Just different.
My dad was in Vietnam when I was a kid. I’m proud of his service. Mom & I were at home, and dad thought the war was stupid, but he went anyway because that’s what soldiers do. My dad never talks about the war, but he started crying when he recognized a name on the wall. I’ve only seen my dad cry 3 times in my life. That was when I really started getting interested in Vietnam. There’s no way I can ever truly understand the experience, but I try to get a feel for it as much as I can through books and stories told by other soldiers.
My grandmother’s younger brother was killed in WW2. She was really proud of him. She talked about him a lot, and I knew I was missing something by not ever knowing him. She said they begged him not to enlist, but they couldn’t change his mind. He wanted payback for Pearl Harbor.
2 of my great uncles were killed at Custer’s last stand. They weren’t US soldiers; they were fighting against Custer. Some people might call them the bad guys, since they were fighting against the US government. My grandfather said he wasn’t allowed to talk about his uncles when he was growing up on the reservation. They weren’t supposed to talk about the war against the US government. Probably for the same reason they had to replace their faith with Christianity, and speak English instead of their native language. So when I think about soldiers, I think about all the soldiers. I’m just as proud of my grandfather’s uncles as I am my grandmother’s brother.
There aren’t many, but there are a few loud people who don’t like this war in Iraq, so they take it out on the soldiers. They call them oil-nazis, and they say they murder innocent children. They say if the soldiers didn’t refuse to go to war, then they are guilty of war crimes, just like this administration. They say that soldiers who die in Iraq are soldiers who die in vain.
So I jump in and say they are not oil-nazis, they are patriots. I’m not going to believe that they intentionally murder children until someone proves to me that they do. Soldiers who desert their unit are not protesting the war; they’re putting their fellow soldiers at risk. You do not run from service just because you disagree with your government. And no soldier who has died for our country has ever given his life in vain, regardless of the mission. I’m grateful for their service and proud of their discipline and sacrifice. I remember the troops every day, and I’m not very nice to people who disparage their service in front of me.
I usually don’t say this out loud, but I also remember the troops who went on tv and said that John Kerry shouldn’t be President because he protested the Vietnam war. The same troops we’re supposed to hero-worship for protecting our freedom, are saying that a war hero is less of an American because he expressed his opinion. The troops who think freedom is worth dying for, as long as we citizens never use it … I remember them.
I have a special place in my heart for the troops who ask us to send donations for Iraqi children, but then cast their votes to keep 25% of American children living in poverty every day. The troops who complain that their health benefits through the service aren’t good enough (though I agree), and then vote to stop uninsured Americans from ever getting health care assistance. The troops who would give their lives to liberate people, as long as the people being liberated aren’t low income Americans. The troops who think that the only kind of oppression worth fighting is the kind you can fight with a gun. The troops who question my ethics because I question foreign policy. I remember them.
I remember the troops who run around saying “freedom isn’t free” so they can drum up support for a war that has nothing to do with American freedom and everything to do with US energy interests in the middle east. The troops who think that patriotism means that you never question authority. The troops who use their citizenship to devalue the country they serve to protect. I don’t need a special day to remember them.
But like I said, I usually don’t say that out loud.