Memorial Day 2003

Another Memorial Day has come and gone, and I have those familiar feelings that I didn’t properly observe the occasion. I didn’t attend any of the ceremonies, motorcycle cavalcades or services. I didn’t spend hours in contemplation with bowed head.

I did fly our flag, and gave brief thought as to why, exactly, I was putting it up for the first time since the declaration that the major combat phase in Iraq was finished. I did watch a 1949 war movie entitled "Battleground," and couldn’t help contrasting that depiction of warfare with what I just saw on CNN, et al. And I lingered awhile on the awful irony that as we observed Memorial Day in the comfort of our safety and freedom, American soldiers were still making the ultimate sacrifice.

I don’t know personally anyone who lost his or her life in combat. One of my uncles was an x-ray technician in the Army Medical Corps, and he died of cancer at a very early age (early 30s, I believe), and while the link is obvious, he wasn’t a direct casualty of combat. My dad was wounded twice in WWII, once via flying shrapnel in Belgium, then later by a German sniper’s bullet in France. The latter ended his combat experience (and a buddy ended the sniper’s life experience). His arm was saved by a POW German army doctor who apparently provided medical expertise worthy of anything we ever saw on M.A.S.H. My dad is a first generation American; his dad — my grandfather — was an immigrant from Germany. The ironies of war are as huge as killing to preserve life and as small as countrymen arbitrarily divided by battle lines helping each other.

Why recount these events? I’m not sure; I guess it’s all I know how to do.

Perhaps this is all many of us can do to honor fallen patriots. Think about what they did, within whatever context is meaningful to each of us, and, where possible, write it down. In doing so, the cumulative thoughts and words will help to ensure that sacrifices in the name of freedom will not be forgotten.