Memorial Day


This is a game blog, and I studiously try to avoid making it anything else. But each year I post a Memorial Day message, because I used to be a soldier, and some of my brothers and sisters in arms are gone from us forever because they made the greatest sacrifice a human can. I miss them. After all these years, I cannot think of them without crying. What follows, with a few edits for currency, is what I posted last year.

I’ll be taking a short early summer break next week, be back Monday, June 4.

This is a long weekend in the U.S., the semi-official start of summer, and in typical American fashion we celebrate it with cookouts and beer and beach time and big sales in the stores. When we all go back to work on Tuesday, it will be with a slightly more laid back attitude because it will be summer and we like to think our grownup selves can in some small way recapture those childhood days when summer vacation was the most glorious freedom we could imagine.

Every year at this time I take a break from my WoW writing to be a bit more serious. Memorial Day is for me one of the most sacred holidays we have. It is a time to remember those who gave everything in service to our nation — the people, young and not-so-young, who sacrificed their tomorrows so that we could have our long carefree summers. Each of them was the most important person in the world to someone, they were fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers and sons and daughters, and their passing left ineradicable sadness in the lives of those who loved them. Some of them died performing truly heroic acts, and some of them died just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but all of them died because they had decided to live a life of service, because duty and honor were not just words but a way of life for them.

Politicians will come out in force this weekend. They will stand in front of masses of red-white-and-blue bunting and speechify about our military “heroes”, and they will wear their stupid little American flag lapel pins to advertise their “patriotism”, and their sound bite phrases about “duty” and “honor” will elicit cheers from their audiences and be replayed on the news shows. I suppose that is all to be expected. But I hope that these politicians — the Representatives and Senators who have the power to declare war and the President who can send our military into harm’s way on a moment’s notice — will privately take a moment to reflect on the unimaginable responsibility they bear.

I hope they will be humbled and awed and trembling at the power they have to send Americans to their deaths. I hope they understand what they are threatening when they boast and taunt other nations with the power of our military. When they give their grand speeches, I hope that somewhere in the backs of their minds are images of our national cemeteries, of the long rows of headstones standing in eternal and perfect formation, each with a cross or star or crescent, each a focal point of grief for someone who loved a soldier beyond all imagining.

Somehow, these words, spoken long ago by a President who shouldered the awesome burden of his office with humility and crushing sadness, still seem relevant:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Have a good weekend. Enjoy your cookouts.

2 thoughts on “Memorial Day

  1. Thank you for your service.

    Growing up I never understood what it meant that my father served in the Navy during Korea. Years later when a good friend served two tours in Iraq, it felt more personal. And when he told me there were things he just didn’t want to talk about, I understood and never pressed.

    So from my family to you and yours. Thank you.

    1. Honestly, I consider my service to be the greatest privilege of my life. Thanks for your comment, and for sharing about your father and friend.

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