On this Memorial Day 2010, I offer forth some quotes in regards to this subject, along with some narrative.
"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived." — General George S. Patton
Probably the most controversial commander of World War II, Patton was one of the most dedicated commanders to the art of war in modern time. He was a tactical genius whose objective was of one sole purpose: total victory. Often, Patton was considered brash, brazen and arrogant by not only those whom he served, but by those who served him. Even those soldiers who hated the general on a more personal level, as soldiers they respected the man's genius for war. He wasted no efforts with politics or political ramifications of his actions. He made all moves with victory in mind. Not just victory, but complete victory resounding in the crushing of all militaries who might oppose him. He cared not for people skills or political correctness, but despite the demands and sacrifices he made of his soldiers, he cared dearly for all who fought with him. While the first half of this quote leaves room to be misunderstood, one must first understand Patton himself. He made great efforts to know of the men who made the final and ultimate sacrifice, and to personally express the condolences toward those soldiers' families. Yet he also understood the sacrifice that we would all have been made to feel, had these men not answered their call to duty when they did.
"Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic." — John A. Logan
While there has always been an element of opposition to war within our country, even since before the War for Independence came about, ultimately we as a nation rallied behind not only our government, but more specifically our soldiers. Our fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends and all loved ones who answered the nations call in a time of war. It was ultimately they that found our support, constant and unwavering. After World War II, the landscape of warfare changed dramatically. No longer were we fighting the wars on the side of a seemingly tangible greater good, but by the winds of everchanging political doctrines. These political doctrines did not merely lead us into a war, but dictated the wagings of war as well. And thus the wars, no matter how far away they may be fought, we're brought directly into our living rooms with more constant and more disturbing footage. Every battle, every move was judged with a political eye by politician and citizen alike. At times, opinion dissident to that of the government was in fact so much that support for our soldiers had changed into acts of blind hatred en masse against soldiers themselves.
Especially now with our wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, no move is made without great speculation from pundits, politicians, and citizens alike. Everyone has their opinions, which in their minds are almost as good as facts. Why a soldier chose to serve his or her country, or what propels them to continue that duty optionally in the face of constant danger and without end in sight, against an essentially faceless enemy can be found in reasons as varied as the soldiers themselves. Many question the soldiers reasons based on their own take, without ever having asked one who has done or is doing their duty. And they have every right to assert their freedom of expression and speech. I just caution them to remember that those rights were granted because of soldiers who answered the call of duty to first allow us to put those freedoms in place and later to help maintain them.
"In the midst of battle, all plans, all thoughts of freedom, and of those back at home go out the window. For in that moment we fight not for any of that but for our brothers next to us. That one day we might be able to remember the battle we fought together rather than being remembered." - Unknown
Today we remember those that gave their lives in battle for us and our country, and each other. Come Veterans' Day, we'll remember those among us who lived through those battles. Why we designate one day here and one day there for the strong warriors among us I will never know. Every day I give thanks for those who have both lived and died in the defense of America.
I was a member of the United States Army back in the late 90s. when some people find this out they thank me for my service. I don't know how to respond to such statements. I never found myself in some great war to define my service. Not that I relish the idea of going into combat. I just don't feel that I ever did anything worthy of being thanked for, no sacrifice to be made by me. I don't want to brush someone off, but I'm always at a lack for words when these moments occasionally come about.
When 9/11 occurred, I was fully entrenched in civilian life, married with one son. When I saw the footage, I as overcome with a lot of emotion. Not outwardly mind you, but there was something welling up inside of me telling me that I should go back and vounteer to fight those who wreaked havoc upon our soil and our citizens. After a talk with my wife, I chose to stay where I was, safe here at home. A part of me was glad to stay here with my family, another voice in my head was talking of my cowardice, that I would let others go fight and die in my stead. It really bothered me for a long time, to the point on a couple occasions where I almost left the house with full plans to re-enlist without my wife's knowledge or permission, the consequences be damned.
I wanted the adventure that would in my own eyes define my entrance into manhood, as well as the camaraderie and the structure the Army would offer me again. Today, an old Army buddy of mine and I ran up to the Post Exchange at Camp Dodge, the Iowa National Guard Headquarters. We grabbed some random supplies for ourselves, and on the way back home we discussed how we missed the life. And how, if we didn't have so much responsibility here at home with children and bills that would surely go unpaid with Army pay, we'd certainly go see a recruiter about getting signed back up, even in our early 30s. It seemed a nice justification, but again part of me saw the reasons as nothing more than hollow excuses we choose to hide behind. Surely there are many serving overseas with the same excuses and more who still answered the call of their country. For better or worse Duty, Honor and Commitment run through their blood to a higher degree than it seems to run through mine. I have a couple old buddies who were killed in action, some wounded, some serving in their respective theaters of war, and others serving stateside who will deploy later this year. Some of them read this, and they know which group they fit in.
All I can do is be thankful for those who made their sacrifice. No matter how small, big or final their sacrifice may be, or what manner they are serving: I thank you.