Memorial Day 2012 – Will You Remember Them Tomorrow?

As always, on Memorial Day in Washington DC,  it was hot and humid. At Arlington National Cemetery, the men and women in dress uniforms stood solemnly saluting their fallen comrades.  Two young Marines opened a beer and saluted their Lieutenant’s grave while a young widow hugged the stone with her husband’s name and cried softly; mothers and fathers  decorated the stones of their sons and daughters.  The sound of helicopters flying low, bringing the officials for the ceremonies at the Amphitheater, caused a few to flinch and glance upwards; and the multi-gun salute marked the end of the official observances up the hill.

Today, I was there to celebrate a life.  The life of a young man, who was almost the same age as my son, who was in Iraq at the same time as my son, and whose mother is a friend of mine.  His smiling face looked out from the photo badges we all wore, and as his mother opened a bottle of champagne to toast him, those who knew him talked about his life. His family spoke of him with love, his fellow soldiers with respect and honor. We covered his stone with roses, tulips, a lei, peeps (because the boy just LOVED peeps) and flags.

I walked around Section 60 with an armful of roses that had been donated today.  All those stones, the ones who didn’t have a mother or father there, who may not have had a spouse, or that spouse may live very far away, we made sure they weren’t alone.  And I thought of the reason we observe this day – the day that had been known as Decoration Day in the Deep South.  My friend and I took flowers to a few stones, and she’d say “his mom is in California” or “both his parents are gone”; the truly heartbreaking story of the young soldier killed in action, and his wife who couldn’t bear it and joined him.  The little things left there, the rubber duckies, the shot glasses (full or empty), pictures of families or a newspaper clipping taped to the marker personalized many of the graves.  Decoration Day 2012.

A piper played Amazing Grace and the Marine Corps hymn, the Army song and Scotland the Brave.  Family groups talked, and babies toddled around the stones; amongst the tears and the hugs, their giggles reminded us that life goes on.  As my friend and I walked to those markers that she knew wouldn’t be decorated today, she asked me where else I’d be today if not joining her in the heat.  Being surrounded by these families, at the most honored burial ground– that’s where I wanted to be today.

There were a few dignitaries, but they weren’t the honored guests. The honored – they smiled out from pictures, on t-shirts, or poster board sized photographs, buttons and pins and death notices, stiff in their uniform picture or laughing in their high school or wedding photograph. We miss them. We love them. And no matter how many years go by, we will honor them. Not just today, but every day. As a friend told me, every day is Memorial Day in the families of those who wear a gold star, who mourn a son, daughter, husband or wife, cousin or sibling.

Today the country took a moment to honor them. What about tomorrow? Will you remember to honor them then? Or will their families be told that there just isn’t any money to help them? Will the memories of our country be as short as many of us fear?

The yellow ribbons that were tied around trees at the beginning of this last long decade have faded and fallen; the gratitude of a grateful nation is definitely strained.  We in the military community will try to make sure you don’t forget them.


Anne H.
Anne H5 years ago

@ Christy & others, The holiday does not glorify war unless you've jumped onto the bandwagon of commercialism & most parades included. If you visit a cemetary it is a very simple sincere day of remembrance. Volunteers decorate, play music and speak. There is often tears and hugs. I saw nothing glorious. You are not approving of the war, you are appreciating that someone stepped up to represent/defend the American way of life. Even serving requires a personal sacrifice, it does not mean you approve of war.

@ Past member. So sad you feel abandoned. The military was there and I am sure many members just as many regular citizens felt powerless. The one thing that is sure about the military is that they do not act without the government (or pay dearly) so their lack of action was not the lack of will of the military member but the lack of will of the leadership and this is our civilian government. We must also remember that the civilian side often do not want the military trained persons involved in their activities. Imagine the USA if everyone thought we would knee jerk activate our military against our citizens. You act as if they refused to serve so I think you must not understand how this relationship works in the US.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L5 years ago

Thanks Troy...just to add:
"War is a Racket by Smedley Butler is a famous speech denouncing the military industrial complex. This speech by two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient exposes war profits that benefit few at the expense of many. Throughout his distinguished career in the Marines, Smedley Darlington Butler demonstrated that true patriotism does not mean blind allegiance to government policies with which one does not agree."

The last part of the quote..."true patriotism does not mean blind allegiance to government policies with which one does not agree.", is somethng the Republican Party would like us to forget.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L5 years ago

Very well said Anne H. I too am a veteran and do not party on this day every year. I don't believe in glorifying war in anyway and hope one day we will learn nothing is gain by it; until then I will honor and remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

Marilyn L

Troy G.
Troy Grant5 years ago

Marine Major General Smedley Butler also said---

“War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period,

Sue H.
Sue H5 years ago

Thank you very much for this important article and for your compassionate effort. We must never forget.

Troy G.
Troy Grant5 years ago

War Is a Racket, by Marine Major General Smedley Butler:

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives...

In the World War a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows...

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill...

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations...

...a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit – fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of do

Cristy Murray
Cristy Murray5 years ago

This holiday continues to glorify war. Our current wars and most of the past wars were little more than a way for greedy cowards to make bundles of money. I'm talking about the Dick Cheney's of the world. These wars don't protect my freedom. That line makes me crazy. I want these young men and women to stop serving themselves up for cannon fodder. The brainwashing makes me want to scream!

Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago

so hard

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V5 years ago

I shall NEVER forget. My Dad is a World WarII Navy Veteran THANK YOU to ALL past and present Veterans and First Responders for serving our country.

Richard R.
Richard R5 years ago

It may be better to not generate so many folks that need remembering. Think about the wars we've been in an the last 100 years. WW 1 was a land and power grab by the various European powers. Serbia had almost entirely given in to Austrian demands but the Austrians couldn't let this chance go by to get more and so they had their fun war and killed millions and sucked the US people in mostly by sinking the Lusitania, but I'm sure being neutral until then with the prohibitions against selling armaments upset US manufacturers and encouraged them into lobbying for War. WW2 was necesasary, but its stage was set by the oppressive end of WW1. Korea at some point became so unpopular that it was ended in a "we'll finish it later armistice" by Eisenhower who ran on a "I have a plan to then the war Platform" so we are still fighting it after 50 years. Vietnam was a disaster. The best thing I can say about it is that Johnson believed his generals, but shoul;d have asked which Christmas they were talking about. Then Tricky kept escalating the whole thing until the US supply of cannon fodder revolted. The military knows the US lost as you can see at the "Wall", just the poor folk who had to do the dirty work. No glorious generals on horses because there weren't any. We know the war is over as many stores carry clothing with tags that say Made in Vietnam and the tour companies invite you there to see everything in air conditioned comfort though the present government is the same one we tried