We sometimes have a difficult time in this country separating the conflict of war with the politics of war. In a way, that’s a good thing because it means we have the freedom to express our personal opinions about the political decisions that result in American men and women being sent off to battle, as opposed to other countries where such dissent not only is not allowed but can prove to be deadly.
The downside to the national discourse on the validity of armed military conflict is that we sometimes apply to our nation’s warriors our personal opinions about the causes for which they fight. Thus an unpopular war, like Vietnam, results in tainted perspectives about the soldiers who fight it.
That’s a sad reality, and one that deserves inspection during the Memorial Day holiday.
Memorial Day should be about recognizing and appreciating the sacrifices made by men and women throughout the nation’s history who were willing to put their lives on the line in support of the ideals for which their country stands.
Not every soldier who died in the nation’s conflicts, from the American Revolution to the fighting of terrorists in Afghanistan, necessarily agreed with the political decisions that put them there. But they put their lives on the line nonetheless, because service to the country meant doing just that.
And there have been no shortage of opportunities for American soldiers to die in protection of the principles for which the country stands.
The guns of the American Revolution were silent but for a few decades when the War of 1812 set them off again. The Mexican War was brief and short on casualties, but many of those same combatants squared off in the Civil War, our bloodiest war to date, a dozen years later.
“The War to End All Wars,” as the Great War of 1914-18 was called, in fact did not end all wars. It indirectly led to World War II.
Korea’s “police action” begat a similar trudge through Vietnam a decade later. And our foray to expel Saddam from Kuwait in 1991 only delayed a final push to oust him from power.
Indeed, it seems that every few years, some rogue nation decides to flex its muscles and invade its smaller neighbors, spurring the world’s other powers to act. The cycle never ends.
We can debate forever the politics of war, but we should stand united in recognition and appreciation of the warriors themselves.
That is the message this Memorial Day. Those who gave their lives for an ideal have set standards for honor and personal integrity that most of us can only hope to emulate.
As you stand around the grill this holiday weekend, pause to say thanks to those whose sacrifice made possible the standard of living you enjoy. It is important to remember the warriors rather than the wars.