It’s a natural question to ask in the U.S. today, which we commemorate as Memorial Day. Many Americans have spent part of the day visiting cemeteries, attending ceremonies and parades, and saying thank you to the veterans who, thankfully, came back alive.
I so deeply appreciate the sacrifice that people in the military make—particularly those who were willing to sacrifice their lives. And while the commemorations mentioned above are meaningful, I would love to contribute more somehow. I’m just not sure how.
On top of what to do, there’s also an interesting distinction to be made here. One lesson that, I think, the U.S. learned from Vietnam is that it is essential to honor veterans even when we disagree with the war in which they fought. We’re talking about this today in Occupy Café—an online presence for the Occupy movement, created in part by my friend and colleague Ben Roberts. Ben posed the question, and here’s what I posted in response:
You and I are essentially in the same place: desiring to honor the war dead (perhaps not just “our” war dead?) while witnessing to war’s ultimate absurdity. In wrestling with this, I tend to focus narrowly on the motivations and cost to those in the military. Many have given their lives; many others have given up important life stages, the chance to watch their children grow, even their mental and emotional stability. They did this (or so I assume) because they saw a need to sacrifice those cherished personal lives for something larger. I may vehemently disagree with the cause they fought for, but I can still honor the fact of their self-sacrifice—particularly as my own faith tradition (Christianity) calls for a similar brand of self-sacrifice. In the sacrifice they make, they truly are heroes.
That’s enough from me. How do you honor our fallen service members? And how do you tread the line between opposing a war—or striving for a world in which war is unnecessary—and honoring those who served in it?