Collective Memory

Why today matters


Veterans groups say a growing military-civilian disconnect contributes to a feeling that Memorial Day has been overshadowed. More than 12% of the U.S. population served in the armed forces during World War II. That’s down to less than one-half of a percent today, guaranteeing more Americans aren’t personally acquainted with a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.” ~ The Associated Press

I’ve written before about the idea of shared sacrifice that our parents and grandparents lived in the last century.

It was uncommon not to serve during WW2. Everyone knew someone who died in that terrible war.

It was uncommon not to help the homeless and starving during the Great Depression. Everyone knew someone who’d lost their job, their home, their hope — someone who needed help.

Somehow our previous two generations not only fought a couple of wars, they found the resources (through taxes) to build our national highway system and just about every piece of infrastructure we still use.

Oh, and don’t forget, they also paid to rebuild western Europe and Japan which had been virtually destroyed during the War. Yes, they helped rebuild Germany and Japan even though it meant higher taxes.

Our country is more divided than it has been since the Civil War. That’s a fact.

But its why the idea of service, public service, to help others, not just ourselves, not just those that vote as we do, is more important than it’s been in two generations.

You can start today by visiting a military cemetery and personally thanking one veteran. In person so they see you mean it.

And if you don’t have a military cemetery in your town, go to a VFW hall, or an old folks home — find a way to thank someone who risked their life for you and all those you love.

These people have become more special over the past 50 years. Vietnam was the last war with a draft, yet our armed forces have been on almost constant duty abroad since, fighting in countries we don’t even know they’re fighting in, putting their service to the nation ahead of their personal needs and wants.

We owe them so much more than we’ve given them.

Their medical care often sucks, to our eternal shame. Veterans should be able to go to any doctor, any hospital they want to — and we, the rest of America should pay for it.

Many, perhaps most, of them need psychiatric help too because of what they saw and what they did fighting in wars they didn’t start and couldn’t choose to sit out.

I say skip the ego-stroke of a military parade on Veterans Day in DC and give that money to our veterans.

Give them good jobs. Give them the best medical care.

Given them our heartfelt thanks by not taking them for granted.

How many of us are willing to share the sacrifice of our armed forces?

Either we all bear some of the cost of war, or we don’t send our armed forces into active war zones.

Talk’s cheap. Congress: put our money — and it is our money — where your mouth is as you make your speeches this Memorial Day.

Active military and veterans deserve more than we’ve been giving them.