Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day, as most of you know, and Yahoo had a post about the Tomb of the Unknowns on its front page.

While I do think it’s a little silly to that the monument has been, “guarded continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, since July 2, 1937,” I can understand the sentiment and all that the gesture implied.

Even though I’m a pacifist at heart, I would never be so crass as to ignore the sacrifice these soldiers gave or the psychological trauma it must have caused these families to be forever questioning what happened to their loved ones.

As usual, the President laid a wreath at the tomb today (Obama also went on to send a wreath to the African American Civil War Memorial which I thought was great) and said the standard remarks of bravery and sacrifice.

I couldn’t help but be reminded by President Obama’s remarks of a story in William March’s Company K. (I’ve talked about the book before, and the teacher who exposed it to me, but this moment just screams for it again.)

President Obama remarked:
"Why in an age when so many have acted only in pursuit of narrowest self-interest have the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of this generation volunteered all that they have on behalf of others," he said. "Why have they been willing to bear the heaviest burden? Whatever it is, they felt some tug. They answered a call. They said 'I'll go.' That is why they are the best of America," Obama said. "That is what separates them from those who have not served in uniform, their extraordinary willingness to risk their lives for people they never met.

Part of “The Unknown Soldier” from Company K:
“It’s all a lie that people tell each other, and nobody really believes,” I said… “And I’m a part of it, whether I want to be or not. I’m more a part of it now than ever before: In a few years, when the war is over, they’ll move my body back home to the Soldier’s Cemetery, just as they moved the bodies of soldiers killed before I was born. There will be a brass band and speech making and a beautiful marble shaft with my name chiseled on its base… The mayor will be there also, pointing to my name with his thick, trembling forefinger and shouting meaningless words about glorious deaths and fields of honor… And there will be other little boys in that crowd to listen and believe him, just like I listened and believed!”
Because the soldier doesn’t want to be part of that, he throws his tags and helmet away and rips up his identification so no one can identify his body.
“I’ve beaten the orators and wreath layers at their own game…Nobody will ever use me as a symbol. No-body will ever tell lies over my dead body now!”
My favorite line is at the end though.
“I have broken the chain,” I whispered. “I have defeated the inherent stupidity of life.”

I must admit I had to butcher the story so I could get my point across (you really should read the book to get the full affect), but I found it too coincidental.

So whether they wanted to be forgotten on purpose or just abused by fate, let us take a little time to think about these unknown soldiers this Memorial Day (and all service men and women).

Here’s to hoping one day these monuments will be nothing more then a memory of a distant bloody past.


1 comment:

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