instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Quite the World, Isn't It?

On Memorial Day, and the honored lost lives

From the Battle of Verdun, World War I
Nearly 30 years ago I found myself in Rennes, France, reporting a feature story while traveling France, England and Ireland with Margaret. We stopped by a local war memorial, which I remember as a stark and haunting place, large, with white marble walls, the names of the dead chiseled into the stone.

I remember as we walked around seeing a thigh-high ark near one of the walls. With my limited French abilities, I made out that the white-marble case was to memorialize the dead of World War II. It wasn't until then that I realized the endless rows of names on the walls were the dead from World War I.

The human costs of war in the 20th century was astounding, with tens of millions killed across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. I guess we should count our blessings that so few people live in Antarctica, or surely there'd have been war there. too.

On Memorial Day we tend to wax patriotic about soldiers giving the ultimate sacrifice to defend our way of life, a take that leaves me with a sour feeling. Some wars are just; most are not, sparked by greed, hubris, and tribalistic nationalism. But I can never shake the feeling that the military graveyards of the world are filled in large part by the bodies of men and women who never should have been sacrificed.

On Memorial Day, I join the nation in thanking and remembering fighting men and women who have died simply because they were asked to fight in their nation's name. But we also should hold accountable those who put them in harm's way for reasons other than our common defense. And no, a cheap gallon of gas or access to markets, no matter how shrouded in patriotic jingoes they might be, are not issues of national defense.
Be the first to comment