Three years ago I shared a memory with you about a memorial day past. I haven’t been very active here lately but I would like to share some thoughts and history on Memorial Day, what it means to me, and ideas on how to truly honor those who have served and gave their last full measure.
Let me start with a couple memories. Forty years ago I was at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts for some advanced training. The Vietnam war was officially over for us but the world was still a dangerous place. All the U.S. military services were adjusting to the different realities of the changed cold war. The draft had been over for several years but the adjustments to an all volunteer force were still a challenge. Retention was a problem after the draft and with the end of the draft, more military occupations and positions were opened to women. The training center had basically transitioned from an old boys club to an army green college campus. That year at Ft Devens, I tasted the worst beer I ever had. Strohs was actually pretty good beer but if you leave it out in a trailer in the sun and let it get hot for several hours, it will turn bad. Seems some young NCO’s hadn’t learned that. After training at Ft Devens, I was off to South Korea. Tensions with North Korea were high when I got there. The prior year there was an incident I remember being called world war tree. Two American officers were killed at the DMZ while they were removing a tree that blocked part of the view from UN observation posts. There was fear that this had been just a warm up to test our resolve. There were also rumors that President Carter, who in his first year of office, was planning on withdrawing all U.S. forces from Korea. The world was still a dangerous place and soldiers were still dying while serving.
On Memorial Day ten years later, I was about half way through a tour in Berlin. Had some of the best and worst beers in the world there. I sure hope they’ve improved Berliner Kindle but most of the beer there was up to the German world class reputation. Tensions were very high. A year earlier terrorists blew up Le Belles disco. They chose it because it was a popular off duty hang out for American soldiers and officials. Two servicemen were killed and 79 injured out of 3 dead and 230 injured. Our section NCOIC was among the injured with damaged hearing from the blast. He had been out showing some visiting contractors Berlin nightlife. He received a purple heart because he was injured in a hostile action. He tried to turn it down but was ordered to accept it because that was the rules. The Libyans were said to be responsible so we retaliated and did an air strike. They retaliated by blowing up Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. I left Berlin almost exactly one year later. There were a lot of nervous people on that flight and no one complained about the delays caused by the extra tight security. The world was still a very dangerous place and soldiers were still dying in service to their country.
Today writers across the country will write volumes about what today means. They will tell us it’s about more than Barbecue and the Indie 500 and the start of summer. Most will write about how the service of the fallen demands this policy or is dishonored by that policy. Too many of these eulogies and stories will be politics as usual screaming into an echo chamber to amplify their agendas and confirm their bias. We really don’t need that and their memory doesn’t deserve that.
The way I see it, they all gave their all to protect and defend the Constitution, the principles behind it and the country that produced it. Their brothers (and sisters) in arms are out there today doing the same. Ready to give their all. But we need to guard that our military doesn’t become just a continuation of politics by other means.
Have a great weekend but don’t forget to stop and offer a prayer and drink a toast to those who can’t be here. They helped make this day possible.