Memorial Day Reflections: How Much Does Peace Cost?

Getting Real With David T. Bruce

For several years our family has paid homage to fallen soldiers by visiting theBathVeteransAdministrationNationalCemeteryinNew Yorkeach Memorial Day. What was once considered obligatory by our children is now something considered a special moment. This year shortly after breakfast and prior to the annual parade, the kids expressed their desire to visit the cemetery, to walk amongst the rows of (often timeworn) marble stones and reflect on the unfamiliar heroes who sacrificed their lives during wars they have only read about in history books.

In some respects, I am proud of their citizenship, as they honor those they don’t even know, posthumously expressing their gratitude to them on Memorial Day. At the same time, I wrestle with the cynical person I have become, as I begin noticing not those that have fallen but instead the many more who have fallen since we visited this cemetery last year. I began to notice less the gray headstones with illegible lettering, slowly chiseled away by wind, rain and time; I noticed more the pristine white marble stones placed at the head of burial plots barely covered with new grass. I felt less gratitude and more sorrow, pity and shame.

The sense of pride once felt for those who volunteered to serve and defend our country somehow seems senseless in a time when more lives are lost in conflicts originally brought about in order to search for a rogue terrorist (now deceased) and to search for and eliminate weapons with significant potential to cause global annihilation (weapons proven to be phantoms). With our missions in these contexts supposedly accomplished, I find it difficult to feign pride for a government and a military machine that preserves any conflict for reasons that are seemingly political in nature. No citizen deserves to die without just cause.

I am indeed proud of those people that choose to serve in our military. My oldest son serves in the United States Army, and he does so willingly, with the understanding of the sacrifice he may make as a result of his service. All who volunteer to serve our military deserve our thanks and continued support. They do not, however, deserve to become pawns in an idealistic and religious crusade that serves little purpose, other than to declare moral and martial superiority. Lives our now being lost for this reason alone, and for that I feel sorrow and shame.

If we must take up arms and place service members in harm’s way, we must do so for a purpose that serves the nation, not an agenda. We are often reminded that freedom is not free and that engaging in military conflict and sacrificing lives is the price for being free. What then is the price for peace? I would like some of that, please.

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