What do we remember on Memorial Day?


When all of the pleasant associations of Memorial Day with the vacations, the start of summer, and barbecuing are taken into account, when else do we remember on Memorial Day?

Just like the three ghosts encountered by Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, we are confronted with three specters. Usually the ghosts of Soldiers Past and Soldiers Present are whom we honor in cemeteries and in our parades, but I think we need to pay attention more to the ghosts of Soldiers Future.

When I say we honor the ghosts of Soldiers present, I’m referring to those veterans who have wounds, visible and otherwise, that are in the process of healing.

The greatest war poem in Western Civilization, the Iliad, has as its companion the greatest poem about the adjustment of a veteran (Odysseus) who in his various adventures in The Odyssey) tries to adjust to domestic life again in a post-world world. It takes him almost as many years as the war in which he fought.

The ghosts of Soldier Future I referred to are the kids who make up the audience of both the parades and the not-so-solemn entertainments that take place this weekend. Can we make sure that they do not needlessly die as soldiers in some future conflict because we did not have the courage to find a solution other than a military one?

I do not take the sacrifice of soldiers past and present lightly, and that is the very reason why I will resist sacrificing yet another generation of soldiers unless I understand the reason for that sacrifice, so that I know it is commensurate with the value of those soldiers’ lives.

And that is why I remember the past and recall the present on Memorial Day.

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