Recently I read an article that claimed it was an inherent contradiction to support a nation’s troops without supporting war and other military efforts. I beg to differ. “War” is such a high concept. We declare wars on ideas, wars on objects, wars on countries, but you can’t attack anything that nebulous. You have to attack people instead. Some people do not think that human life is the appropriate price to pay for the mere potential of defeating “drugs” or “terrorism” or whatever.
But what our society or government or military disagrees with will never be fully eliminated. There will always be some corner of the earth that holds another way of life. It’s not necessarily the existence of evil in the universe; difference just has a way of metastasizing. Eventually a few people decide that many will have to make that fight physical in order to seek some precarious resolution. Because of this, we will always have soldiers.
We’re lucky to live in a place and time where and when people choose to join the military. Becoming a soldier is an exercise of free will. Who can’t behind choice, even if it’s not the one you would make yourself?
My cousin Cory chose to serve. His time was nearly up, but he made a choice to stay so someone else could get home sooner. He chose one dinner option over another. He chose where he sat in a mess hall. He chose not to get up and swap out his meal for pizza. It was a day like many others, except this time, a man entered the tent and blew away Americans and Iraqis alike.
That was 2004. Two days ago, two bombs went off in the same town of Mosul, killing three and injuring dozens, including children. I don’t point this out to make any political point. These are just the tragic facts.
Memorial Day has become a little more difficult these past nine years. We’re all taught to honor fallen soldiers, but in my childhood, such a concept seemed so distant, like remembering men and women who had served decades before in the World Wars, Vietnam, Korea. Now people I grew up with are making those sacrifices. Today I’m doing laundry, watching Netflix, typing away on my computer and considering whether I should go out to do anything today. Some no longer have the luxury of the mundane as I do.
The numbers are harrowing. They become so large that they cease to make sense as faces, names, years of love and hobbies and favorite bits of entertainment, personal grudges and heartbreaks and chipped shoulders. Cory never saw his beloved Monty Python hit Broadway with Spamalot or Alex Trebek ditch the mustache he sported for so many years on “Jeopardy!” He didn’t even get to see the age of thirty.
My hope today is that people don’t forget. I hope they look ahead and make informed decisions, those that factor in the ultimate price. I hope that fewer children grow up to lose the babysitter who cunningly tricked twins into giving up their two whole peanut butter sandwiches in favor of one sandwich that had been neatly cut into triangles. I hope, if only for a day, people with power remember the cost of a human life. I hope they remember any name at all rather than a number.