Saturday, May 28, 2005

Memorial Day, more than just a long weekend

If I understand correctly, Memorial Day is technically a day to honor the American military dead, while Veterans Day is a day to honor the living.

But, since I don't feel like waiting until Veterans Day to honor the living, I'm going to honor both with this post.

American troops, past, present and future, have and will always have a dear place in my heart. I'm from Vietnam, a war orphan, and I've said this before and I'll say it again - there is very little I have in my life that is not due, at least in some small part, to the sacrifices of brave men and women who fought in that unappreciated war.

And by extension, there is very little we as Americans have in our lives that is not due, at least in some small part, to the sacrifices of brave men and women who fought in wars long before that, from the Revolution that made us a free nation, to the Civil War that freed the slaves, to the World Wars that opposed tyranny and (in the case of the Nazis) pure evil. And so forth.

Of course, with troops overseas fighting and dying far from home and loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's tough to merely pay tribute to those who have fallen and not those who still serve or who were lucky or strong enough to survive.

God bless those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for America. And by America, I mean you, dear reader, and me. And God bless their families, because the dead may not know any more pain, but those they've left behind certainly do.

And God bless our troops, too, may you all return safe home someday to those you love.

Living or dead, to these American heroes, I'm proud of you, I salute you and I'm thinking of you, this day, Veterans Day and every day.

Memorial Day information
Veterans Day information
Vietnam Veterans of America
And finally, a salute I wrote to Vietnam veterans in The Morning Call in 1999, reprinted via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Don Blankenship's fine RiverVet page (please note, I take no responsibility for anything else on the page; I think it's terrific and moving, generally, but our politics and opinions don't always match). Please don't think it's vanity to cite myself here, it's just I've never found a better way to say how I feel than this piece.

Two asides:

First, yes, police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, etc., are heroes, too. And on a personal level, certainly people such as Betty Tisdale and the Babylift folks deserve more than their fair share of applause. But it's Memorial Day. This one's for the troops.

And second, yes, if you're not from America, you can probably disregard much of this post. But at least try and think about those who have sacrificed so you have the life you do.