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Actually, Mr President, I disagree

 Shocking, I know.

Monday will Memorial Day.  It is the day of the dead.  It is the Auld Soldier's day.  The Auld Soldier's father's day.  Uncle Bill's day.  Cousin Tom twice removed's day. Great-Granddad Pappy Hays' (a veteran of the Orphan Brigade) day.  Even the day of that Meriwether who was one of Roger's Rangers...  It is not, however, my day.  My day comes in November.  The still serving veteran gets two days - November 11 and the third Monday in May, Armed Forces Day (though that's a workin' holiday...)

While I appreciate those of you who go out of your way to thank the living on this holiday - to me that distracts from whom the day is meant to honor.

The dead.  Whether they fell in combat, died later of wounds, or died in bed, after a long and fruitful life.

Not me.

And while every day is a good day to help the living who are in need, I still would rather we keep this day's focus on the fallen and departed.  Not those still with us.  I have the opposite gripe in November, but I'm not going to grump at a Joe who celebrates his or her survival by mourning those who went west, and are waiting at Fiddler's Green.

The President's remarks, as prepared for delivery really aren't bad - but I wanted to make the point about the holiday, because the virtual conflation of Memorial Day and Veteran's Day is a burr under my saddle:
 
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
May 26, 2012

This weekend, folks across the country are opening up the pool, firing up the grill, and taking a well-earned moment to relax. But Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend. In town squares and national cemeteries, in public services and moments of quiet reflection, we will honor those who loved their country enough to sacrifice their own lives for it.

This Memorial Day, Michelle and I will join Gold Star families, veterans, and their families at Arlington National Cemetery. We’ll pay tribute to patriots of every generation who gave the last full measure of devotion, from Lexington and Concord to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Later that day, we’ll join Vietnam veterans and their families at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—the Wall. We’ll begin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. It’s another chance to honor those we lost at places like Hue, Khe Sanh, Danang and Hamburger Hill. And we’ll be calling on you—the American people—to join us in thanking our Vietnam veterans in your communities.

Even as we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we reaffirm our commitment to care for those who served alongside them—the veterans who came home. This includes our newest generation of veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan.

We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us: By making sure that they get the healthcare and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job, and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect.

Our men and women in uniform took an oath to defend our country at all costs, and today, as members of the finest military the world has ever known, they uphold that oath with dignity and courage. As President, I have no higher honor than serving as their Commander-in-Chief. But with that honor comes a solemn responsibility – one that gets driven home every time I sign a condolence letter, or meet a family member whose life has been turned upside down.

No words can ever bring back a loved one who has been lost. No ceremony can do justice to their memory. No honor will ever fill their absence.

But on Memorial Day, we come together as Americans to let these families and veterans know that they are not alone. We give thanks for those who sacrificed everything so that we could be free. And we commit ourselves to upholding the ideals for which so many patriots have fought and died.

Thank you, God bless you, and have a wonderful weekend.


16 Comments

 I'm with you Armorer. The holiday began as decoration day. A day to honor the dead and decorate their graves. Those of us who actually have honored dead among family and friends understand this.

Therefore, I wish the proprietor, SWWBO, Bill, Dusty, and those that read this, a good Memorial Day. May it not be too somber as we remember those that have gone before us.
 
Every day should be Memorial Day.
 
I agree MAJ Mike, and it's also always a good day to say thank you to those still on this side of the grass for their service as well. It's a good thing we have days set aside to remember those who have fallen and for those still around but it doesn't hurt to take a second or two to acknowledge the guy who brings you the mail or the EMT who might very well save your life as he helped save the lives of service members in war zones. I figure it's never a bad time to say thank you unless you're doing it because you do it to make yourself look good, not because you sincerely appreciate someone's service.

Sometimes I don't say thank you when I should. I might be rushed or having a bad day or whatever but I usually feel bad later if I don't at least say it. It seems that saying thank you has kind of gone out of style but I'm old enough to remember when if I didn't say it my parents would encourage it (sometimes with a whack to the backside.)

Saying thank you doesn't cost anything, and I've noticed that people who go into the military are more likely to say it than the general population - whether that's because of enforced civility or more of a personality trait of someone inclined towards the military I don't know.

So I'll honor Memorial Day privately but here I'll say a big thank you to all who are still around to hear it.
 
NevadaSteve -- I agree wholeheartedly.  You are absolutely right.  Those living should be able to hear our gratitude while they are able.  I don't interact that often with EMS and the police, but they deserve our thanks as well.
 
 Fine, guys - but there's 364 days of the year left for that, eh?   
 
 I am adding my father to John's list.  Although he was not in combat in World War II, he still served  - as a Quartermaster.  You see, my Daddy had a great  mind for numbers.  They tested him and said, hmmmmm...... He can keep track of supplies!

He was in Hawaii for all of the war after Pearl Harbor.  

And then, there was my Uncle Dick, who flew in the Pacific, my Unce Bud, who went to the Phillipines, my Uncle Hank, who also flew in the Pacific and my Uncle John, Uncle Bill and other Uncle Bill (both Bills were in both WWII and Korea, and ended up thier careers in the Pentagon).

Pretty much anyone of my generation had a lot of relatives who fought for our freedom.  The younger generations just do not have the same kind of relationship and understanding of military service that I do.  
 
In my view, details really matter, especially on this one. This one day, our Nation honors those who have served and have died. I am not saying that they must die on the battlefield. How many of those who have served, have a “normal life", after their service?”  Armorer is often said it depends on the miles you have traveled, but also on how you did it.

Beth,  there is a timeless wisdom in your comment. Some could say this, it showed your age, but I would prefer to say, “She learned it from somebody older than herself.”
 
Whilst you are still living, you are a soldier or a veteran.  Once you join the Legion of Stone, you lie in perpetual formation to receive the well deserved thanks and salutes of the Nation. Memorial Day is the formal and public recognition of something that occurs daily in cemetaries, on battlefields, and at memorials spread across the land..  It is a day rightly reserved to those who are departed.
 
I would also like to add my grandfather, who was in Japan, shortly after the bombs were dropped, his brothers, 1 of whom I never had the fortune to meet, as he was lost at sea, my wife's grandfather who was posted aboard a minesweeper never designed for deep water operations. 

None of these fine men boasted or bragged about their service nor felt we owed them anything but moreso than ever, we owe them, and all that have gone before, everything. 

God bless every single one that has gone before us, may we always remember then with honour, respect and fondness.
 
I agree with John. I think the problem many of us living veterans have when somebody thanks us for our service on Memorial day is we all have comrades that either didn't come home at all, or have since stepped on the Glory Train, so it bothers us on some level to be singled out on this particular day.  Now, when somebody thanks me for my service on 11 November, I feel honored and humbled and thank them back for remembering and I always make sure I thank my comrades on that day for their service.  However, on Memorial day, we who know those who have gone on, feel distracted from our moments of reverie when someone points us out as deserving recognition on this day.  Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth of Memorial day philosophizing. 
 
Speking of decorations and flowers, I'm sure my Bro is driving my Mom up to Santa Fe today to tidy up Dad's final assignment.  The stone say's World War II, Korea, Viet Nam.  Thanks, Dad, for all my todays.  And thanks to all you other men who answered the call truly believing it was for "us" at home. 
As Beth said, many from our generation have Uncles we never met, whose stories we'll never fully know.  Young men who gave up their lifetimes for a few years of Hell, simply because the were Men, even would-be-Men,and it was the Right Thing to Do.God bless you and Rest in Peace.
 
Dang, Pollen count is up this morning...
 
Great-great-uncle, the only other Marine I know of in my family tree, died in the Pearl Harbor attack.  Oorah, Sir.

Also, I know I emailed this to John already, but I hope he won't mind me posting it here, too.  Taco has the same issue with people not knowing the difference between Veteran's Day and Memorial Day, but his short article can fix that.  The image at the end is powerful enough to deserve its own post.
 
 This has been a compelling post. I heard one man's view  and he was from the 101st Airborne and this is the way he answered it. “It all depends upon the way you look at the daisies. If you look down on them,  it's Veterans Day. If you look up to them, it's Memorial Day.” About 2 weeks after he said that to me, he was on his way home to his new post, to guard the daisies, from the roots on up.

Cortillaen, I hope you won't mind, but I would like to comment on your comment, just at the end. All of you, do yourself a favor and look at this comment by Cortillaen on 5/27/2012 11:38 AM. He has an image link at the bottom of his comment. This image speaks libraries on his own, without any help from the grumpy old Vet, like me. I hope you will do yourself a favor and look at it and remember.
 
My little brother and I were eating lunch with Dad in the dining room of the retirement home Mom and Dad live in when the call came this noon for all of the vets to stand up (Mom was upstairs with Spice and my sister.)  Dad and I looked at each other, made faces, and stood (about a quarter of those there did.)  The other diners applauded, we sat. Little brother asked what the faces were about.  We explained the difference we felt between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day.  "We're thankful you're here, and you're regretting they're not." he finally said. Pretty much.
 
 That's a great line from your brother, htom.