Monday, 25 May 2009

Ask Not For Whom the Soldiers Died...

they died for thee.

Today is Memorial Day in America - the day we set aside to remember the soldiers who fought and died in all US wars.

Apparently, the custom of setting aside this day for remembrance began with local ceremonies in honor of the fallen after the Civil War, and was made an official federal holiday in 1888.

Many of the American men and woman that the country honors today died in heroic fashion, for inarguably noble and successful causes. (All of us in Europe are especially grateful to them for their decisive role on the final victory over Germany in WWII.)

But not always. As painful as this is to admit, some of these men and women died pointlessly - in friendly fire incidents that could have been prevented, for example. Some of our soldiers died because of terribly mistaken orders from our own military or civilian leaders. Some died because they didn't have the right equipment, or necessary medical supplies, or good information when they needed it.

Whether they died as heroes, or as accidents, they died for us. Even if they died in a war you opposed, they died to for you. It's relatively easy to honor men and women who died under unequivocally admirable circumstances. Everyone's chest can swell with patriotism and pride unmitigated by doubts and the need to improve.

But we owe our veterans more than a "well done" and the satisfaction of pride. We owe them the hard work of looking hard at what goes wrong, when things do go wrong. We owe them a commitment to making sure that every military engagement we send them on is necessary, that we have a plan to win, that we know how to secure the peace, that we give our men and women the arms and equipment to do the difficult jobs we ask them to do, and that they will always get the best treatment available when they are injured in the line of duty (whether that injury be physical or emotional). We owe them a guarantee that their families will not have to live in poverty because they served their country.

We owe it to them to remember them every day, not just memorial day.

Or to put it another way,

"Our fighting men and women — and the military families who love them — embody what is best in America. And we have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they serve all of us," Obama said during his radio address.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, have made veterans and military families a priority during his young administration. Obama's budget proposed the largest single-year funding increase in the last three decades to revamp the Department of Veterans Affairs.
So thanks to every service member living and dead, and to their families and loved ones. I hope that we don't let you down.

No comments: