My dad was in the ROTC; when he tried to enlist during World War II they turned him down, because they needed him working to keep the phone lines in good repair to a special military installation. I am proud of what he did to help. I had uncles and good friends who were in the military; they did their jobs, and came back changed men (some for the better, some damaged). Must admit, I am ambivalent about the military. It will always be a hierarchy that has to train people to be prepared to do very difficult jobs. I don’t like the methods, even while I understand the reasons. But I have a family member in the military now, and I am so proud of him. Soldiers are just people — some are jerks, some are warriors with honor. People join the military for a variety of reasons. I am also proud and thankful for the law enforcement officers who truly care, and who put their lives in harm’s way every day in hopes of making our Nation a safer place.
Memorial Day is about honoring the people who helped create the United States of America, in whatever way they “served.” There was an email going around about the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, and while it stretched some of the facts, it had a valid point. The men who signed that document put their lives and the lives of their families in danger. People were captured, tortured, and died because of those signatures. Men and women, average people, fought and died in that war, so we could have a new nation. In the Civil War people fought to protect their homes, families, and way of life, no matter the color of their flag. Think of the Native American people, who were still fighting wars to protect their people in the 1970s; they are an important part of the creation of this Nation. There are even some politicians who take their jobs in a desire to serve the people, to make this nation a stronger, healthier place to be.
Several years ago I got a CD from “Ode” magazine featuring Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who now lives in France. He speaks about honoring those who have given their lives to help us have this place to live. He mentions Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and the Native American peoples. I find myself thinking also of the four students who were killed at Kent State University in 1970: Alison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder. They died while protesting war, and galvanized the Nation.
You and I may never be celebrated heroes, or put our lives in harm’s way to help others. But we can live our lives each day in a way that makes things better. The choices we make, even something as simple as showing respect, make a difference. Happy Memorial Day!