A Call to Active Duty on Memorial Day
I planned to post a blog on Memorial Day. Instead, I chose to take time and reflect on the best way to honor those who died while serving in this country's armed forces.
I thought of the losses endured in three generations of wartime: World War Two, Vietnam, and the Middle East.
My dad carried this messenger bag while a Navy Lieutenant serving in the Pacific Theater. As a pilot of rescue seaplanes, he lost members of his crew. After the war, he visited their families and joined in their grieving. These deaths stayed with my father all his life.
Boys who waved me off to college wouldn't get that chance. Delaying their education when drafted for the war, they died in Vietnam. Their friends and families mourn and miss them still.
College students sat in my classrooms, young men and women scarred by tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. I thought of one student in particular this Memorial Day. After two tours in Baghdad, John struggled mightily in my Ethics class. What a contrast between the textbook readings about "War and Violence" and his too-real experience. John wept while reading aloud his paper which concluded with a description of his best friend dying in his arms. John and I talked often outside class, both of us hard at work on his adjustment to "civilian" life. Earning an A, smiling and proud John mixed happily with his classmates on the day of the final exam. "It meant a lot to me when you told me your dad served in the Navy. I want you to have this sand from Iwo Jima from my grandfather and me," he said, handing me a small glass bottle.
So, how could I best honor generations of lives lost on this Memorial Day 2018? Not having served in the military, how can I personally relate to this kind of service? Days removed from Memorial Monday, I realize that I must continue to fight for "liberty and justice for all." I must stay on "Active Duty" against forces that can destroy the United States from within. Bigotry, cruelty, greed, and self-serving ignorance are powerful foes. Unfortunately, every day offers opportunities to combat them.
Complacency and inactivity pose threats to our fragile democracy. I can't turn my back. I can't desert all the people fighting for unity by speaking up, defying power, running for local and national office, refusing to let hate win.
I felt immediate kinship when reading Carol Giacomo's article in the New York Times on Retired Army Captain Paul Bucha, Medal of Honor winner for his service in Vietnam. He's seen war, experienced its nightmare, and loves his country. His Memorial Day remarks honor those who died and those who continue the fight.
I'm on board with Captain Bucha.