(Originally published 5/28/2022)
As I do every Memorial Day, I think of a family member that was 23 years old the day he died. He was a Boatswain’s mate first class in the United States Navy on February 19, 1945. That morning he was a landing craft operator taking Marines ashore at Iwo Jima. His landing craft was disabled or destroyed (we don’t know) and he was last seen (according to a letter from his CO to his parents) fighting alongside Marines armed with a flame thrower. It was a horrific battle, and the fog of war precludes much. No one really knows the details of his fate that day. He was listed as missing in action, presumed dead on that day. His parents received his death certificate a year later.
I never knew him. He died nearly 20 years before I was born. But I knew his mother and father, his sister and brother-in-law, and his two nephews, and they talked about him a lot.
This Memorial Day, for me, is more difficult than most. This day, while we honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedoms and our country, we also mourn the tragedies in Texas and Buffalo. It’s simply impossible to put those tragic events out of our minds this weekend, no matter how much we would like to focus on our fallen service members.
That young man that died packing a flame thrower into battle on February 19, 1945 would not be at all pleased with what our country is right now – today. He’d be all for a barbeque in his honor, but that’s about it.
Did that young man die so that politicians could make political points over children being shot to death in school?
Did that young man die so that local politicians (in his home state) could defund and defang the police to the point where I now have to carry a sidearm everywhere I go?
Did that young man die to enable the teaching of Marxism in our classrooms?
Did that young man die for fucking pronouns?
What do you value America? What is it you truly value? What did he die for that day?
I think those are good questions to ask ourselves on this Memorial Day. What do we hold truly important, and what is (in the end) truly bullshit?
We suffer today from a failure to communicate. We suffer from a failure to embrace civil discourse regarding our differences. We suffer from a failure to collectively embrace reality. We suffer from a failure to embrace what is possible and what is not. These are NOT that difficult to overcome – assuming we have the will to overcome them. But we don’t.
Are you willing to engage in civil discourse? Are you willing to engage in solutions? Or is ideological purity more important – more important than his life and all the lives given before and since?
Are we going to accept that what that young man died for on February 19, 1945 was this? Or was it something more?