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Monday, May 29, 2006

Decoration Day, Today

Memorial Day was originally Decoration Day - the day on which the graves of those fallen in war were decorated to show that they were not forgotten. When I went to school they taught the history of Memorial Day. I doubt they do now.

We had parades, we bought poppies, and schools were often involved in going to the local cemetaries and decorating the graves of veterans. I doubt they do now.

Regardless of what your community does, there are many ways for you to remember those who have given everything, and one of them is to donate to a veterans' organization. These organizations look after the disabled and the families of the fallen. What ground in to me as a child that remembering the fallen was not an option but a duty was that my mother always donated to the Paralyzed Veterans of America even when money was tight. That reflection makes the memory of the taste of powdered milk a little sweeter.... After my father died my mother worked as a volunteer in a veterans hospital.

There is a list of veterans' organizations up at the VA. They do great work to assist the families, the retirees and the children of veterans. This often includes scholarship programs for the children of vets. Our own blogging angel, Holly Aho, has links and helpful information about supporting the soldiers and families of today through the Soldiers Angels organization.

I cannot believe how the military is so ignored, spurned and abused today. Our media won't even print information about Medal of Honor winners in Iraq. Why don't we know the name of Paul Ray Smith, who died for his country and left Jessica and David, his children, and Birgit, his wife, behind?

Oh, if Kerry runs again we'll read and hear a million times about his Silver Star, but we'll never hear about the heroes of today! The obligatory mention of McCain's ordeal will be everywhere, but we won't hear a word about what soldiers are enduring today! All too often these heroes are dead heroes, and all too often they have families and children who are left with nothing but a memory. How painful it is to see that memory disregarded!

Why are we afraid to remember? Tigerhawk was guestblogging at Villainous Company and wrote something that rang true for me in a post about the media's refusal to recognize the achievements of military heroes:
The question is, what is its cause? Surely some of it derives from the national obsession with victimization that pervades press coverage generally. I do not understand why any fifth tier pseudo-celebrity can attract the attention of the mainstream media by claiming that he was abused as a child, but I assume it is because a large proportion of Americans are fascinated by it. Whether this is because they, too, have been victimized -- at least in their own minds -- or the reverse -- that they feel that they are giving "penance" for their great luck to be living in this amazing country at this prosperous and exciting time -- I do not know.

There is something deeper, though. I think we resent the all-volunteer military. It is a constant rebuke to those of us who might have done more for our country, but decided not to. When the heroes are draftees, we can honor them for having risen above the misfortune of their low draft number. They lost the lottery, and still they thrived. The draftee is not different from us in the choices he made, he simply made the most of his bad fortune. We imagine we might have risen to the same challenge.

When our soldiers are volunteers, however, many of us are both mystified by the decision that they made and embarrassed that we did not make the same decision. We are ashamed by their heroism, because it reminds us of our own self-indulgence. We then compound the insult by not recognizing our own weakness and honoring the heroes in spite of it.
So remember what this day is about and observe it as it is meant to be observed. (And yes, Mom, I did pay up today. Because I owe them:)

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