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6/11/04 (updated May 27, 2012)
Copyright 2004 David C. Loebig

Be Careful with our War Memorials

We're stuck with honoring our veterans once, twice, three times a year. Every Memorial Day, every D-Day and every Veterans Day we raise the flag, give a salute and pour glory on our heroes.

And we should. Many of them endure pain and discomfort everyday from their battles long past. But many of those who never see combat have it hard. Even in peace time the infantry, always training for war, have the toughest job in the world. If you doubt that, try carrying 60 pounds on your back for twenty miles. Then dig a big hole and sleep in it for 3 hours.

Then walk another 20 miles carrying 60 pounds, dig another hole and sleep in it for 3 hours. And do the same thing day after day. It is bodily painful and mentally exhausting.

There are those who actually see combat anywhere the politicians send them for whatever reason. They suffer and die. We must remember their selfless service.

And, of course, there are those who actually saved the world, the boys of Anzio, Iwo Jima and D-Day--the men and women of World War II. Many are now gray and tempered with age. Others died there on the beach. They deserve the honor and gratitude of the world.

We should remember the boys who, having been mortally wounded, crawled in front of their comrades offering their bodies as shields. We can't forget the soldier who saw his own intestines spread out on the beach. We can't forget the airmen who fell from the sky, knowing for several horrifying minutes they were going to die.

Humanity owes so much to so few. Those boys saved the world, and we can't forget.

But the reason we must remember isn't simply that they offered so much. We must remember because war is hell. And there is the rub. Each Memorial Day we subtly glorify war, and I'm conflicted every time.

I feel humbled and indebted with the multitude of war stories, yet I cringe at the implication of telling them. Since we can't accurately reenact war to impart the full horror, we're left with a relatively sterile rendition. I'm always afraid we're subtly socializing our culture for war, especially the young.

And war stories make powerful indoctrination. No hero story is as compelling as a war story. The biographies of ethical CEOs, volunteers or blue collar workers lack the allure of a war story. Peace time honors pale in comparison.

And so we're stuck. To the individual, we owe so much, but on the scale of our culture, we should be leery.

Every time we honor our military, we owe it to future generations to reiterate the true nature of war. War is always a useless drain on humanity. War is always a bloody, sloppy waste. War is always death, destruction and suffering, even when it's necessary.

To our veterans, I say thank you. To our future generations, I say be careful, be guarded, be skeptical of war. It is sometimes necessary, but it is always hell. We mustn't forget.

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Dave Loebig writes and banters out of the Tampa, Fla. Area. You can banter with him at RandomDigressions.com.

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