Memorial Day: Honoring Valor Transcends Politics
Growing up in post-Vietnam America, I’ve always lived in a country with an all volunteer armed forces. So what it means to serve and sacrifice never hit so close to home. The contentious debates and protests that divided an earlier generation rippled through my education through teachers who served or dodged and boasted about both. But the collective American sacrifice of the World War and Korean War generations has long receded. Many of us don’t even know any active service members.
While it’s wonderful to live in a nation that requires so little of its citizenry, I sometimes wonder if a draft would limit our wars. Surely more people would have vehemently protested the Iraq war if our esteemed President George W. Bush had asked more of us than to go shopping and re-name a popular side dish with red, white and blue grease.
And then there’s the guilty little truth: America has a de facto military draft. Minorities and economically disadvantaged whites serve in disproportionate numbers in the armed forces, most signing up for educational benefits; benefits long delayed due to an onerous number of return tours. Is it fair to send the same noble men and women back into dangerous war zones two, three, sometimes four times simply because we don’t have enough volunteers?
I know a lot of Red State types think a liberal has no business talking about patriotism and honoring those who serve in the military. Fox News and others in the fright wing propaganda machine wielded the “Support the Troops” mantra throughout the Bush era, aiming it at liberals and others who questioned our swagger over substance approach to war. I eschew the unpatriotic” label the Repubs like to affix to anyone who dared doubt or criticize the reckless Bush-Cheney foreign policy. Of course, the same hypocrites have no problem blasting almost everything Obama does ( and what they don’t criticize, they credit to Bush). Ironically, it’s really the other way around. Those who questioned an arrogant strategy built on paper thin intelligence and all American bravado are the ones who care most about the troops.
Of course, paying tribute to those who valiantly serve transcends politics. So let’s not hide behind the propaganda on either side. We’re all Americans.
I think about all those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. So many are heartbreakingly young, barely out of their teens. All leave behind grieving families and unfulfilled dreams. All sacrificed for all of us: Democrat, Republican, Independent, Tea Party or apolitical.
So on Memorial Day–and every day– let’s remember all the unsung heroes who have sacrificed for our freedoms. If you see an active service member or veteran, thank them. It may be a small gesture, but say it anyway. Those who expect so little in return for their valor are often grateful for the appreciation. And they deserve so much more.
Whatever you do: don’t just go shopping.
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