Monday Smiles – Memorial Day 2014
I have traveled the political spectrum from fairly far left to fairly far right and back toward the middle in my seventy years. But as I traveled that broad spectrum, I think I’ve always been a patriot in the sense that I love my country dearly and believe for any faults it may have, it is unique in the world. When I was protesting the war and voting for George McGovern, I believed My Country Right or Wrong, but not America – Love It or Leave It or America, Fix It or &%$* It. Every Memorial Day, I get to think back on my decision to seek a deferment from the draft based upon my employment in the defense industry, a decision that might lead some to question my claim of patriotism. I won’t deny that my motivation wasn’t entirely selfless but I’d offer that some of the systems I helped develop for keeping track of Soviet submarines during the dark days of the Cold War contributed substantially to our National Defense. Just watch The Hunt for Red October. Still, sometimes I feel a little guilt that others served in my place. At seventy, I simultaneously abhor the realities of war (brought to us in gruesome detail by modern media) and resign myself to its necessity in what is, more than ever, a dangerous world. Some of our military excursions have been essential, others have turned out to be unwise. Both fall at the feet of our leaders and those of us that elect them.
Our military personnel are another story. They willingly (or in the past, unwillingly) turn their lives over to those who make our political and military decisions. They must operate as if they are defending the the rights and principles we as a nation stand for in order to effectively perform their duties. There is no doubt in my mind that we would not exist as a country without them … and if we did not exist as a country, the world would be a more dangerous place. Whether a specific military action is essential or unwise, the performance of our troops in these actions rises to the level of heroism. We’ve come a long way from the anti-war days of the sixties when soldiers were vilified beside the leaders that led us into war. Still, simply hanging a flag in front of the house and having a barbeque doesn’t do the holiday justice. It’s called Memorial Day because we remember those that have given their lives in service … and by extension, those who served and have since passed away, like my Dad. Perhaps we should all listen to the somber tones of Taps before we dig into that plate of ribs.
It’s Monday. It’s Memorial Day. I’m smiling with a tear in my eye. I’m proud to be an American.