Memorial Day: Past, Present, and Future

I am a very curious person and love to talk to people about their religion and why they believe what they believe. And although I never talk to work colleagues about this topic for obvious reasons, in the Facebook era it's often impossible to separate the professional from the personal. Earlier today I read this status update from my occasional (but always lovely) co-worker Careena:

Rhetorical gripe: "balance" is creating a Memorial Day curriculum that's "fun." What on earth is fun about death, separated families, our lame VA system, or war in general? PS, for bonus points: our denomination is rabidly anti-war, so blind flag-waving patriotism is Out.

Careena is a member of the Unitarian Universalist church, which is vehemently anti-war. Her quick remark lead me to give a lot of thought to what I might write for Memorial Day, the day Americans celebrate all military personnel who died in combat. Careena's anti-war stance made me think about my own peaceful position, which at
times makes me feel like the black sheep of my own military family.

Of the five people who helped raise me, four of my parents/grandparents served in the United States Armed Forces.

I've lived on four Army bases from Ft. Knox to Berlin when there was still an East Germany. And when I grew up and paying for school got too tough, I often found myself convinced that I should join the Army/Army Reserves/Air Force, too. I visited with recruiters from New Jersey to Cocoa, FL., took the ASVAB, went to MEPS, but could never bring myself to sign on the dotted line. Sheepishly I told myself I would see the world in other ways.

Since becoming an adult I still haven't been out of the country. But I have been all around the U.S., from Arlington National Cemetery to the sprawling suburbs of Arlington, WA. I married a man who sings songs entitled "No More War," who still owns socks with his name sewn into them by a mother who would have shipped him off to London instead of letting the draft take him to Viet Nam.

I've made the best decisions I could to suit myself, but also the best decisions I could with the information and resources I had at the time. My grandmother (pictured above), joined the Army as a nurse to get away from the cold Chicago winters. My mom, in the Army from '73-'76, was one of the last WAC's, and as a woman felt safe in joining without the threat of going to Asia. She was right and followed her older enlisted sister to Europe instead.

Just because I am anti-war doesn't mean I can't acknowledge that many people believe they are fighting overseas for a reason. My heart goes out to them all, but most especially to those who thought that the military was their only option at a decent job or a decent life.

My feelings regarding Memorial Day were summed up tonight with Andy Rooney's words on 60 Minutes. Paraphrased, it goes something like: Remembering those who died in combat is a coping method for those of us still alive. But if we question war and why we have it, isn't that the first step towards not having any more loved ones to mourn?

1 comment:

  1. And speaking of lack of options, here's a radio documentary about one of the most heavily recruited counties in the country. It's called "Fighting Obama's Wars: Recruiting Youth in Brooklyn."