rotating header

Monday, May 26, 2014

Remembering Memorial Day

Memorial day takes on a new meaning with a soldier son.

I have seven uncles who fought in WW2--five in Europe and two in the Pacific.  All came home alive but the scars of that war stayed with them throughout their lives, rarely mentioned.  I visited one of them briefly on this last trip.  His generation is passing quietly away, the men who did what they had to do without complaint, who spent lifetimes of generosity, common sense, practical know-how, hard work.  We also visited my father's grave.  He was in the army for two years in a clerical job in Fort Knox, KY. I grew up among patriotic people, who decorated with American flags and believed implicitly in the goodness of the American brand of freedom.  Memorial day was about parades and picnics and the beginning of summer, vaguely about feeling proud for being from the USA.

Our kids have a different background, a bit more world-aware, a desire for service and justice, for putting right, for doing the hard things, for sacrifice, that is not fueled by an America-is-always-right opinion.  They saw real war, real bad-guy rebels, real good-guy soldiers who were actively saving our lives.  They have lived (and still do) next to refugee camps, in the vicinity of bombs.  So the fact that one of them is headed to a deployment on a base in the Middle East and will be studying in a language intensive in North Africa should not come as a surprise.  Yet it is not an easy walk for him or for any of them, to hold onto ideals that are not quite politically-correct in liberal or conservative circles, that are their own.

Memorial day to me is now about the reality of sacrifice.  The stakes are real.  To change this world, and to stand against evil, costs lives.  This is the cross.  And that puts my stomach in a knot.

It hit me last weekend at Yale's graduation.  We came out of the Baccalaureate service and Scott and Caleb went to find a restroom, leaving me in a marble hallway.  I started noticing that the walls were engraved with names.  Hundreds, thousands of names.  So I looked more closely. They were the names of Yale grads who died in WW2 and other wars.  Young men, class of 1940 or 1943, death in 1941 or 1945.  Pilots.  Kids, in other words, exactly like mine.

So today is a sobering day to remember that a world amok is only put right by a cost, and it is often our young men and women who pay that cost with their lives.

No comments: