Memorial Day, 2013. We are still at war in Afghanistan. North Korea is making noise, and I’m not sure we are getting the full story. The Arab Spring is having interesting consequences, and we are yet to see it play out. More and more we hear about veterans’ benefits being cut. I watched the Memorial Day Concert on the Washington Mall last night and was once again angry at the needless loss of life and wounding of so many young people. Calling them Wounded Warriors (which they undoubtedly are) just sounds like a slogan for marketing. Call me a pessimist, but I see this title as one more strategy to pull as away from where it really counts: stopping wars altogether.
Thanks to Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, we are looking at the suffering made on the Homefront. They have done great work, acknowledging those who also serve. If you watched the audience shots last night, you saw the wounded women. We still have not recognized the role women have played in our wars.
I think about the endless years ahead for our wounded men and women. Couple that with cuts to benefits, and I get very angry. Saying “thank you” with a concert doesn’t help the suicide rate of veterans, even with an 800 number to call a crisis line. After wiping away the tears from the presentation by Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinese, I started wishing yet again for trials of George W and his cronies for crimes against humanity. I know “freedom isn’t free,” but there must be another way to peace.
Here are a few links I found for this year’s remembrance.
And a piece from the remarkable Howard Zinn: Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day? Thirty-seven years old and just as applicable – and controversial – today.
I miss you, Daddy – every day for 38 years. You were so young.
Memorial Day, 2012. It’s Memorial Day, and I always think about my dad, Eugene R. Lemke, who served in the Merchant Marine during World War 2. He lied about his age, as many young men did, in order to fight. He never said much, and I just have some pictures of his travels to the Mid-East and India. When he read Alistair MacLean’s HMS Ulysses, he admitted that he had been on the Archangel-Murmansk run. He got his GED after the war and picked up classes over the years in insurance. He died 37 years ago, in his 40’s. One year for Christmas, I sent money in his name to the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC.
I’ve always remembered Memorial Day. I would be the only one standing when the flag went by. I would place flowers on graves. To me it’s always been about sacrifice, never about sales and picnics. I miss the parades – only one in Tucson, and that’s on the way west side of the city.
In the early 1070s my students in Hawaii wanted to celebrate a World Peace Day, which we set for April 28, 1972. The Pacific and Asian Affairs Council chapter worked for most of the year, with me taking care of scut work, based on what they wanted to do. I never had any idea I would get called a Communist so much, or be followed because of advocating for peace. Quite the eye-opener for naive me….who would have thought peace would be so controversial? Thirty-seven years later we’re still at war…. It’s a very strange world….
My father-in-law trained pilots in India to fly over the hump. Last year I read a book about the China-Burma theater that was an eye-opener. Talk about a theater of war that had no support, and so many untold stories of heroism. My mother’s second husband was in the Pacific with the First Cavalry, just ahead of MacArthur. One of my good memories of him is taking me through the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia and talking about the campaigns. He was First Cav to his dying day at 92, this last November. My dad’s best friend was in a tank in France. They’re all gone, and the stories are fading fast also.
This 70th anniversary of Bataan and Corregidor brought many stories back to us. Our veterans from World War II are dying off. And our new veterans are facing horrible injuries that would have killed them in earlier wars. They’re facing cut-backs in veteran’s benefits, problems with jobs, high suicide rates. War should never be the answer without exploring all options beforehand. And for those who served and who now choose to serve, we need to be there for them, regardless.
Having visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial, I found this extremely moving.
And finally, a quote (one of many from The 25 Best Reasons to Stop Sending Our Soldiers to War):
“Make wars unprofitable and you make them impossible.” ~~A. Philip Randolph, leader in the civil rights and labor movements