U.S. soldiers stand in a formation during a Memorial Day ceremony held at the Bagram U.S. military base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 28, 2006. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd
Being a veteran of the Viet Nam Era, my past memories of Memorial Day are of the "honoring of the dead" type where the living and surviving members of the conflict rarely had a role and, in many cases, were vilified.
This era is different. I was watching a two hour Memorial Day special from the Discovery Channel that featured Long Beach's Jesse James of Monster Garage fame as he went to Iraq to visit with our troops, and something he said struck a note. What he said had an element of getting outside of ones own thinking that extends to include a greater community of Americans ... "If these people really believe in what they are doing, then I have to believe in [the value] what they are doing."
During the Viet Nam era, things were different, in that many of us who served were drafted and placed into service without really knowing what we believed in ... let alone believing in the mission of "what we were doing". Further, at home, there existed a disconnect between the mission of military effort and the greater community of Americans.
Today, I pray for all of those in our armed forces who have committed themselves and gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us to live in freedom - but further - I will pray for the survivors of the fallen as well as all of those who have committed themselves to stand-up and serve in the armed forces so that we (and others throughout the world) may continue to live in freedom.
Excerpts from The Christian Science Monitor -
With war on, Americans have troops in mind
By Brad Knickerbocker, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor - Fri May 26, 4:00 AM ET
Americans will still fire up their barbecues, watch parades, and go camping this weekend. But for the first time in a generation, Memorial Days are coming during prolonged armed conflict. That has strengthened ties between civilians and soldiers, bringing a marked change in the way people will observe the holiday this year.
Politicians of all persuasions are pushing for better veterans' services, including healthcare for the living and survivors' benefits for those who've lost loved ones. Many states are now providing free tuition at public colleges and universities for the children of those killed in war zones.
Since terrorists attacked the United States in 2001, communities around the country have begun to bring back traditional Memorial Day ceremonies - many of them featuring Iraq war vets.
It's part of growing public interest in military affairs, historians say. And this time, unlike in the Vietnam era, declining support for the war has not eroded backing for the troops, say many of those taking part in Memorial Day ceremonies.
Part of this post-Vietnam urge to separate the warrior from the war has to do with the portrait of the typical soldier today. Unlike his or her father, who probably would have gone to Vietnam right out of school, today's GI is more likely to be older, to be married, and to have children. Especially among those in National Guard or Reserve units, he or she is likely to have strong work and community connections.
More family men and women in the war zone also means more dependents to care for in the wake of combat casualties. The 2,404 men and 55 women killed in Iraq have left an estimated 1,700 children without their parent.
"Memorial Day is about thanking those who are there and honoring those who didn't come back," says Rick Marsh, president of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association. "So we're sending them a little bit of Vermont, a little thank-you."
Rita Payne, who runs Roman Catholic programs at Fort Campbell, sees a growing reverence for Memorial Day.
"There is a more deepening of faith, of spirituality and just prayerfulness," she says. "People take it upon themselves to do something positive, and prayer seems to be our greatest weapon right now."