For a very long time, I’ve been a closeted disliker of Memorial Day. The glorification of war that tends to go long with it, makes me sick to my bones. There are a myriad of us that feel this way, but we seldom feel like we can express it because our patriotism is always questioned. So, you may not realize we are out here.
Today, however, I’m flipping the script.
Today, I’m coming out as a anti-war monger who will honor Memorial Day.
Not with a celebration and cook-out, but, instead, I will honor Memorial Day and the lives lost, in the way I feel is most appropriate: by reflecting on the costs of war.
In terms of the lives of United State’s forces, war has cost us more than 1.3 million lives (with more than 1.5 wounded). In the 20th century alone, including civilians, war has cost 64 million lives world wide. Not only that, while we tend to express support for our active troops, more than half a million veterans end up homeless when they return home.
The financial cost is almost a staggering as the human cost. Since 2001 alone, the U.S. has spent in excess of 4.4 trillion dollars on war.
I’m a minister, so it may not be surprising that a favorite Bible verses tends to ring in my head on days like today as we gather in parks and grill burgers to honor the fallen. It’s actually not a direct, one-to-one, correlation but the neural connection my head makes seems to always have me quoting it on Memorial Day, “I hate, I despise your festivals… but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
If we want to truly honor our veterans, we need to give them justice when they return home, we need to remember the real cost of war and we need to grieve with their families.
In my mind, today should be more of a day of mourning than a celebration. We need today to become more aware of the realities and the real costs of war.
We must not forget.
We must not forget the lives lost.
We must not forget the limbs lost.
We must not forget the mental stability lost.
We must not forget the veterans on the streets and those who pull up chairs to empty plates.
War is hell – and frequently the other side of war is a living hell.
We must not forget.
It’s the best way to honor those who served and lost their lives.