Americans have remembered and honored the men and women who have died in our wars on Memorial Day (originally Decoration Day) every year since the Union soldiers were honored following the Civil l War.
But remembering is not enough, and the usual flower wreaths, speeches, prayers, music, fly-overs and military salutes may console the living but they do not honor our fallen troops.
The only way to truly honor the dead is to end war, for that is what they fought and died for.
Lincoln called America “the world’s last best hope,” but in the 20th century, it became the richest, most powerful and most bellicose nation on earth.
World War II was necessary. The Nazis were monsters, methodically exterminating the Jews, sweeping into one country after another on their way to ruling the world. Contemplating a world ruled by Nazis beggared the imagination, and so America went to war.
Seven years after we dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II, American soldiers were on foreign soil again, fighting and dying in Korea in what our leaders chose to call “a police action.” It was a war, of course, our second in a generation.
The pace was quickening. As President Dwight Eisenhower, who had led Allied forces into France during World War II, warned of the rise of “the military-industrial complex,” American military “advisors” were already on the ground n Vietnam. That war lasted well into the 1970s, 50,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese died because neither President Lyndon Johnson nor President Richard Nixon wanted to preside over a defeat.
The 1970s and 1980s were also notable for America’s clandestine campaigns in Central and South America and the Middle East to unseat popularly elected leaders with our “friends.” American arms were often
Part of the deal, as in Iran-Contra.
The Iraq war, which America started, is in its sixth year. The Afghanistan war is escalating. American troops continue to die.
For four years, Veterans for Peace, LA. have saluted their fallen comrades, casualties of the Iraq war, and reminded us of the true, terrible, heart-breaking cost of war with Arlington West, the ever-widening field of crosses they place on the beach north of the Santa Monica Pier every weekend.
The crosses are there today, Memorial Day 2009, and they are more eloquent than all the speeches at all the services.