Our Opinion: Lest we forget the fallen
There are fewer men and women in the U.S. military today than at any time in our nation's modern history. That fact contributes to what some analysts conclude is a growing gap in understanding between citizens who serve in uniform and those who d...
There are fewer men and women in the U.S. military today than at any time in our nation’s modern history. That fact contributes to what some analysts conclude is a growing gap in understanding between citizens who serve in uniform and those who don’t. It means fewer and fewer American families have direct experience with a son or daughter serving overseas. It means most U.S. families will not face the death or life-changing injury of a loved-one who served in the armed forces. It means interactions among members of the volunteer armed services and the vast majority of the nation’s residents are fewer and far less personal than in other eras.
Those facts of military service in the 21st century make today’s observance of Memorial Day all the more important. As ceremonies close to home and across the nation honor the sacrifices of all those who have fallen in defense of the homeland, no small focus must be reserved for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day. And nearly every day, some of them die for their country in distant and troubled places. Their loss is as significant today as has been every other loss of a military man or woman who fought for our nation. Their sacrifices will be honored on future Memorial Days.
But in light of our nation’s failure to live up to its promises to veterans – either because of flawed policy that put them in harm’s way, or because of dysfunctional and underfunded veterans’ programs – Memorial Day takes on even more meaning. Americans must not get so weary of war and the possibility of war (as every poll confirms they have become) that the sacrifice of veterans and their families becomes a secondary national priority.
There may be fewer Americans serving today, but they are the most highly trained, best equipped and more patriotically motivated than any before. They sign up. They volunteer knowing what the world is like – knowing that they likely will be asked to put their lives on the line. When lives are lost – as they surely will be – it is up to a grateful, if sorrowful nation to recognize the sacrifice and respect the fallen heroes.
Memorial Day can be more than honoring our war dead – as vital as that exercise is to the health of our nation’s soul. Today can also be a reminder, that as removed from our daily lives as military service is for the majority of Americans, the importance of the work uniformed men and women do, and the ultimate sacrifices some of them will make, must remain at the top of our national agenda. Our freedom depends on it – on them.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.