It’s Memorial Day here in the US, which means it’s supposed to be a day for us to remember and honor those who have fallen in the armed forces.
Both sides of my family have a tradition of serving in the military. My brother’s a Marine. So is my nephew. My uncle-in-law damaged his hearing while manning artillery in World War II. Several of my cousins have been in the Army, the Marines, the Air Force.
Thankfully, they’ve all come home. But that’s not true for every family, or even most families.
To me, the best way to honor those who have fallen is to treat our current veterans' lives with respect. That means never going to war under false pretenses. It means choosing our allies carefully, so that we don’t need to hesitate about defending them when they are under attack. It means never rushing to war, and keeping our diplomatic corps as strong as our military, so we always have options.
Too often, I feel our leaders – of all political stripes – have failed to do this. It’s as if each one of them secretly wants another World War II, a “just” war they can use to drape themselves in glory. But that’s how we got Vietnam: a (Democratic) President lying to Congress and the American people about a war we didn’t need to fight. The Second Iraq War was more of the same, only under a Republican this time.
I understand foreign policy is not black-and-white. It’s a complicated, shifting thing, where today’s ally could be tomorrow’s foe. But we should never go to war without knowing why. We should never hurry to wage war when we don’t have to.
It’s the least our leaders can do for us, we who have to fight and die, we who have to wait and worry and pray for our brothers and sisters and wives and fathers to come home.
If you’ve lost family in war, my heart goes out to you. May you find some comfort this Memorial Day, and in all the days to come.