This Memorial Day, Let Us Honor and also Resolve

Old Guard soldiers plant flags at Arlington National Cemetery

This is the sixth year in a row that I have the opportunity and the privilege to write a message honoring all the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in military service.

Memorial Day should be the Day to honor and remember the fallen of wars past — and it is. As has always been an American tradition, a lot will be said and written in honor of those who have fallen in previous wars: The Vietnam War, the Korean War, World Wars I and II, and all other wars and conflicts.

Sadly, for the past 10 years or so, Memorial Day has also been a Day to honor and grieve for those brave men and women who have continued to die on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan — too many still dying, as we speak and write, in Afghanistan.

Sadly, for the past 10 years or so, it has become a grim ritual at every significant anniversary, whether it be Memorial Day or Veterans Day — even Christmas — to count, mourn and honor the additional lives that have been lost in our most recent wars in the previous 12 months.

So, as we observe Memorial Day 2013, we feel almost compelled to once again count the number of our nation’s service members who have given their “last full measure of devotion” since the last Memorial Day — our newest heroes — and to say “no more,” or at least to hope that the next Memorial Day, the next Veterans Day, the next Christmas we will have to count no more, to mourn no more — to know that all our troops are safely home.

And so, this Memorial Day we once again have a special place in our hearts for the nearly 300 brave, American men and women who have been killed in and around Afghanistan since last Memorial Day.

Some will ask:

“Why dwell on such numbers, such anniversaries — on a still-ongoing war?”

“Why not just remember and honor the more than one million fallen American heroes of past wars– and move on?”

Finally, some will say, the Obama administration has already announced a “date certain” for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan — the end of 2014 — “so what is another 18 months or so?”

First, it is not a “so what” to the parents, children, brothers and sisters of those troops who will give their lives between now and that “date certain” — assuming that such date certain holds, assuming that after that date certain thousands of our men and women will not still be in harm’s way as trainers, as advisers or in some other innocuous-sounding roles.

But, more important, how can we honor and mourn these troops and all the fallen heroes before them if we don’t, as Americans, resolve that our nation will never again send our men and women into harm’s way on a whim, on bombast, on a prevarication. Resolve that if and when we do so — as a last resort, for irrefutable national security reasons — we will ensure that we can quickly but honestly claim “mission accomplished” and bring our troops home.

That is the least we can do out of respect and gratitude for those heroic men and women who will always be ready to give their lives protecting our country in the future and in memory and in honor of those who have gone before them.

These are my thoughts this Memorial Day, in addition to quietly and solemnly recognizing the sacrifices not only of our fallen but also of all our wounded — some horribly so — and all those who are still missing.

Lead Image: Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, or The Old Guard, place American flags at every grave in Arlington National Cemetery, May 23, 2013, in remembrance of those who died in service to our country. The tradition dates back more than 60 years. (Photo DOD)

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

11 Comments

  1. I agree. My gratitude and thoughts go out to all of our Fallen Soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice for a greater cause. My thoughts also go out to their families who are suffering and to the many soldiers who are wounded physically and emotionally by war.

  2. Thanks, Today.

  3. Thanks Dorian….

    Memorial Day is traditionally for ones that lost their physical life in war. Yet my remembrance and prayers also go the great number that lost parts of themselves on the battle fields that will never rise again.

    ” In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” ~ José Narosky

    Dorian, you posted on this young man from Kansas City. In case you have not seen the follow up story, i will share the link..

    http://www.kansascity.com/2013.....r-vet.html

    May you be blessed….

  4. Thank you, ordinarysparrow and thanks for the link.

    I believe that the paralyzed Iraq war veteran is doing the right thing for himself and his family. Additionally, he can do much more to make Americans aware of the horrors of unjust, unnecessary wars (really of all wars) alive than dead (And I don’t mean any disrespect or callousness here)

  5. Thanks Dorian,

    There is a very good reason to be attentive to the sacrifices made by our troops during the last 12 months and during the many years we have occupied Iran and Iraq; Of course all wars require soldiers to endure hell, but the recent middle-east wars have gravely injured many more soldiers, than other major conflicts, which have also lasted for several years. One of the reasons for this rash of injuries is the prevalence of sudden explosions from IEDs which lurk menacingly along the traveling routes used by many of our soldiers.

    Although the number of actual deaths resulting from about ten years of such devastating warfare, remains relatively small, relative to that length of time involving other wars, the prevalence of sudden unanticipated explosions injuring many thousands of our troops, coupled with a greater technological capability to airlift the wounded out, in order to save and care for them, has enabled large numbers of wounded soldier to survive their injuries and recover. However, so many have been saved that will require medical help for the rest of their lives, or (at least) for extended periods of their lives, this has created a massive number of injured soldiers that require costly treatments for both the physical and mentally costs of war ie.(PTSD). Consequently the government has been denying many of them the proper amount of care they need, in order to save military costs.

    For reasons that I, as a civilian, can not possibly understand, the suicide rates and psychological injuries suffered by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, has skyrocketed in numbers—including mental injuries and suicide rates. So, I am assuming that the stressful conditions endured by soldiers in those two mid-east countries, is often comparable to the dangers faced in World Wars, with Germany and Japan. They do not have an easy task!—and,perhaps the movie—”The Hurt Locker,” portrays some of the reasons why.

    Whether or not the controversial issues in both Iran and Iraq, may cast shadows of doubt on our right to be fighting in them, the valor and dedications of our soldier remains at one of the highest levels we have ever seen. After 911 many young Americans, felt the need to voluntarily join the fight, against extreme Terrorism and the senseless killing, which terrorists have unleashed. Our men and women in these recent wars—not to mention our gay soldiers—are every bit as brave and dedicated as those which ended Hitler’s lust for power and infamy! We owe it to ALL of them to express our gratitude for often making the ultimate sacrifice, in order to end the evil activities of groups dedicated to making brutal and heartless, attacks on innocent civilians.

    Whatever our opinions concerning withdrawal time tables, pre-emptive strikes, “enhanced” interrogations, and the many other controversial issues involved, we can proudly recognize the sacrifices of all our soldiers—especially those voluntarily serving in Iran and Iraq! and, especially in the last 12 months!

  6. Hi Petew,

    You bring up several very valid points about the nature of our most recent wars, the kind of horrific physical and mental injuries resulting from them, but especially about the heroism of and sacrifices made by the troops who served and contimue to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. (I believe you meant to say Afghanistan instead of Iran)

    Thank you.

  7. Thanks Dorian,

    I didn’t realize I wrote Iran, instead of Afghanistan—sometimes the number of simple mistakes I make, both in word choices and Grammar, amazes me. When I entered college 40 years ago, I would never have made such a mistake—even though we didn’t have any computers or word programs to help us write with the required proficiency.

    I have read several stories about the increased survival rates of soldiers injured in combat, mostly due to our improved medical treatments and the ability to airlift soldiers to countries like Germany, where they can get all the care they need. Unfortunately, this has also made the military reluctant to accept treating all cases and injuries—especially those dealing with PSD—since that would require extra funding during this time of economic difficulty. Hopefully this will eventually change, because whatever internal demons arising from horrific personal experiences, may convince a soldier that he or she would be better off taking their own lives, all soldiers and veteran need to know that, invariably, whatever happened was not due to personal moral failures, but only, to the fog of war, and the presence of dangers all around.

    Once again, I have no first hand knowledge of how it really was, but I am absolutely sure that, in almost all cases, self inflicted punishments do not fit the nature of self perceived offenses, and our soldiers do NOT need to die over them.

    Strangely, the American military has more funding and operating expenditures than most of the other major world military forces combined, yet because of the politics at play, and the extent of our military involvements around the globe, our veterans often receive insufficient medical help, and cannot be adequately cared for—even after all the hell they went through in order to defeat terrorism. Hopefully these financial barriers will not always exist.

  8. Strangely, the American military has more funding and operating expenditures than most of the other major world military forces combined, yet because of the politics at play, and the extent of our military involvements around the globe, our veterans often receive insufficient medical help, and cannot be adequately cared for—even after all the hell they went through in order to defeat terrorism. Hopefully these financial barriers will not always exist.

    good comment Mr Petew

  9. Dorian,

    You and I may not agree on everything, but today, and through Memorial Day, the Stars and Stripes fly from my front porch, lit at night and never having touched the ground.

    ES

  10. Certainly agree with that and commend you for it, Elijah.

    Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

  11. Thanks Petew,

    Your comment that “our veterans often receive insufficient medical help, and cannot be adequately cared for” is a recurring and persistent issue and one that the administration, Congress and the public are finally beginning to address and hopefully improve.

Submit a Comment