By Larry Simoneaux
We don’t seem to do a lot of Memorial Day parades anymore.
Memorial Day sales? You bet. Parades? Not so much.
Apparently, there’s not enough interest. Too few people, too few organizations in too few places willing to take part.
I guess with the pace of things today — and our shortened collective memory — it had to happen. Old wars. Old soldiers. Old stories. Old news. Fewer parades.
I think it’s also partly because we live in a time where events such as the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, etc. aren’t interesting to enough people anymore, so they’re mostly consigned to footnotes in history classes — if there are still history classes that mention such subjects.
We also live at a time when World War I vets have passed on and our remaining WWII vets are leaving us rapidly. We live at a time when Korea and Vietnam are subjects that many do not want to remember and when Iraq and Afghanistan are still open wounds.
We live at a time when most of our elected representatives in Congress have never served a day in uniform and know little if anything about the hardships, sacrifices and loneliness that are part and parcel of putting on a uniform.
We live at a time when just such representatives have the power to send our sons and daughters into harm’s way without ever having personally experienced or ever having had to function under the sometimes stark conditions of bladder releasing, bowel loosening fear that many veterans have lived through.
Maybe parades aren’t all that important anymore. Still, I think that sometime this Memorial Day weekend, it would be good — if only for a moment — to remember a bit of our history and the men and women who’ve made what we all enjoy possible.
It would be good to remember places with names like Lexington and Concord, Saratoga, Yorktown and Bunker Hill. Places with names like Chickamauga, Antietam, Gettysburg and Manassas.
It would be good to remember places with names like Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry, Ypres, and Meuse-Argonne. Places with names like Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Aachen, and the Hurtgen Forest.
It would be good to remember places with names like Yudam-ni, Inchon, and the Chosin Resevoir. Places with names like An Loc and Ia Drang Valley, Dong Ha, Hue and Khe San.
And, it would be good to learn about and remember all of the hellholes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If not the places, then it would be good to remember the soldiers, sailors, Marines, fliers, submariners and all those others who went to such places, stood their ground, and said — “Not on my watch; and if you try, stud, you’re going to have to come through me.”
It would be good to do this because we, as a nation — rightly or wrongly, justly or unjustly — sent them to all of those places and they went. They went and many did not return. Those who did return often came back with physical and mental reminders that will be with them the rest of their lives.
We live in a scary world. There are still more than enough dictators, tyrants, despots, lunatics, terrorists and malcontents to go around. Iran and its leaders are getting a lot of press lately. North Korea is still bubbling and the Middle East isn’t likely to calm down any time soon. Given that, my guess is that it’s very likely that we’re not finished sending people to more such places. We should remember that, too.
And, while we think of these things, we should remind ourselves that whatever shaky and, often, illusory peace we have has always had a very high price. A price that’s usually been paid by the men and women who have served or are now serving in uniform.
This Memorial Day, in cemeteries all over the country, tiny American flags will be placed on the graves of our veterans. That’s as it should be.
This Memorial Day it would also be good to take just a moment to remember all who’ve served and those who are serving now. We sent them where they’ve gone and they went.
Given what they’ve done for us, a silent moment of thanks would be appropriate.
In fact, it’s more something we most definitely owe them.
Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.