As a holiday Memorial Day has drifted far from its origins. Originally called Decoration Day it got started shortly after the Civil War and was so named not because of the medals soldiers won....but because this was the day for grieving families to put flowers on the graves of their fallen.
Now it is generally just thought of as the opening bell of Summer. Beer n' ATVs.
Within living memory we've had wars that left their mark on every community large and small. Everyone knew a lad who did not return from Iwo Jima or Normandy. It would have to be a pretty small town where there were not flowers on a grave for a life lost too soon but in heroic cause.
In 2023....not so much.
From Korea onward we no longer start wars with a declaration of same. And with no definitive commitment on a national scale we seldom finish them. It's hard to have a victory parade when a conflict ends in a shaky truce. It's impossible to do so when it ends in helicopters fleeing just ahead of a triumphant enemy.
In times past when you spoke of The War everyone knew what you meant. Now we have small collections of men and women in uniform scattered around the world. I try to follow the news and can point to a half dozen places. More are doubtless secret but look to the obvious places. Middle East, Balkans, Africa. Mostly they are advisors but still decidedly in harm's way. And for what? ISIS, Al Queda, Al-Shabab, the Taliban; these are not enemy armies from hostile nations. Mostly they are bandits with ideology taking advantage of failed political systems.
I'm not ready to discuss our involvement with Ukraine other than to ask: "What's the end game there?". We are sending our highest tech weapons, and no doubt the techs to help with it, in hopes of......?
Were there a conservative in the White House trying to pull this stunt there would be protests in the streets and at a minimum a daily drumbeat of very appropriate questions.
In the days of my young, foolish youth the US military struggled to get qualified people to don the uniforms. I guess everything old is new again. The Army is projected to fall 25% short of its recruiting goals. The Air Force and Navy are squeaking by with theirs, aided by hefty retention bonuses and by relaxing entry requirements to permit heftier recruits. Oh, and also because those branches of service are felt to offer a good training ground for high tech with a much reduced chance of ending up in a rice paddy with a rifle. The Marines, God bless 'em, still have enough esprit d' corps to be meeting their targets.
We once said, with some degree of sympathy, that nobody wanted to be the last man to die in a senseless war. Now with our inept political and military leadership nobody wants to be the first man to die in one either.
None of this detracts from the valor, the honor, the heroism of those that have stepped up in times past and paid the ultimate price. Indeed, nothing can detract from it. Let's remember them with respect these men, and a few women, who fought and died for a country and for principals that they believed in. May we always find those willing to do so in times of need.