On this Memorial Day Weekend I am reminded of all of the veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country, for our freedom, and for me personally. And I honor them. But it is not a holiday that I find easy to deal with. It is a time when we remember those who chose or were forced to go to war – and who lost their lives, paid amazing sacrifices, and left loved ones behind. They endured tremendous suffering –in the fields of the War Between the States, in the trenches of World War I, on the beaches of Normandy and the South Pacific in WWII, in the jungles of Vietnam, in the deserts of Iraq, and the mountains of Afghanistan, among others. They gave limbs and lives for freedom’s sake. Their families endured separation and unimaginable loss.
I had two uncles who fought in WWII and another who was a pilot in Vietnam. I can clearly remember heading to the airport to welcome Uncle Bill, my Dad’s brother, home from Vietnam but knew nothing of what he did or why he was gone. However, I am proud of them and all soldiers’ service and remember them today for their valor and bravery in the face of war.
But this is an odd holiday weekend. Many of my friends on Facebook and Twitter are recounting parties and plans for this “day off.” Some remember the troops and their families. Some boast of “getting their drunk on” since they have had a long weekend to recover. (Another thing I do not understand, but that is for another post) Most are doing yard work, going to the beach, vegging with the TV, or taking in a movie with their families. So what are they celebrating? Time off? Our soldiers and their families? I sometimes wonder.
I find it an odd holiday because at the core of my being I am a pacifist. I believe that war should never be the answer – unless all other avenues have been exhausted (and I even struggle with this). I abhor conflict and violence. So at my core I am against war on all levels. Sometimes though that belief has been mistaken for being anti-soldier. I was accused at one of my churches for being unpatriotic for not wearing a US flag pin on my lapel during the invasion of Iraq after 9/11. I told them I was not in favor of the war. The response, “then you do NOT support our troops.” I was shocked and saddened. That is so far from the truth. I absolutely support our troops and their families. I know families who sit anxiously awaiting word from their loved ones in combat zones. I know soldiers recovering from traumatic injuries—both physical and psychological. I know soldiers in the military right now – some from former youth groups or their spouses and some sons and daughters of friends. I support them wholeheartedly.
I can support our troops and not be a fan of war. They aren’t fans of war or conflict either. I have never met a soldier or a soldier’s family who wants war to happen. They want war avoided, but follow orders when conflict is the only answer. My issue is that too often we, as a country, go to war without exhausting all other options and for reasons I fundamentally disagree with (some seemingly for oil and money only). And sometimes when intervention would save countless lives from abusive and murderous regimes, we sit idly by. I am confused and not happy about it – while being uncomfortable with it, too.
So today, Memorial Day 2011, remember all who have served, all who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and their families. But above all – I want us to honor them by using them in conflict only when it is absolutely unavoidable. That is the most honorable way to pay them respect and honor their lives and the lives of those who love them.
So I say – I am pro-soldier, but anti-war and proud of it.