This Memorial Day, we must find the collective conscious to confront the uncomfortable truths of why we go to war, and what happens to our young men who go to war.
Today we remember those who have fallen for our country in the most recent wars, because they live in the memories of those alive today. I have fond memories of Memorial Day parades in my small town, where my grandpa played in the band and marched with his comrades who survived WWII and even the Korean War. This generation showed us the ultimate national pride, expanding on the Memorial Day traditions of parades, speeches and other celebrations that began after the American Civil War.
But as a Nation, the collective pride that we feel for those that risk their lives and fall for our country has certainly shifted. Not because we don’t honor our fallen heroes with parades on Memorial Day – we still respect that tradition, but many feel the painful truth; that we largely fail our soldiers today. According to the Pentagon, the suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel has spiked again this year, further eclipsing the number of troops dying in battle and on pace to set a record annual high since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago.
When the WWII Vets are gone, having passed on from old age, our Memorial Day celebrations will change. When more of our ‘fallen soldiers’ have died from taking their own lives than those who die in combat, there is certainly less to celebrate.
And let’s not forget the Veterans of the Vietnam War who may also feel less of an inclination to march in a parade on Memorial Day. The US Dept Veteran Affairs estimates that approximately 40% of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34% of the general adult male population. Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country, most of them Vietnam Vets.
So while parades and celebrations are wonderful, let’s also get involved in the collective decisions on why we go to war and how we will respect those willing to risk their lives in war, and what happens to those who survive war.
I’m impressed with David Lynch’s Operation Warrior Wellness initiative. With few programs successfully addressing what’s happening with Veterans today, his has brought meditation to more than 10,000 veterans with great results:
And we love this, from Franklin Roosevelt’s magnificent “I Hate War” speech:
“I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen 200 limping, exhausted men come out of line—the survivors of a regiment of 1,000 that went forward 48 hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.”
In deep gratitude for the sacrifice of all of those individuals and families that their lost lives in combat, and for those families who lost a loved one because of what they experienced in combat.