While it is true that Memorial Day serves as the unofficial start of summer, we should note that it is actually a day to remember our fallen service men and women.
As we wrap up wars half way around the world and bring our soldiers home, we should take a second and remember all of our soldiers who did not return from Iraq and Afghanistan. We should also remember those who did not come home from Vietnam, Korea, WWII, WWI, and countless other wars our country has fought in its short histroy.
Regardless of what you think of war, we can honor these men and women. If you can get to a military cemetery, put a flower or a flag on a soldier's grave. If you cannot, please take some time out of your day to think about them and remember them.
I woke up this morning thinking about the military cemetery in Normandy where 10,000 of our fallen soldiers are buried. I took this picture when our family visited Normandy almost three years ago. You can't see something like that without feeling the loss. Please take some time to feel that today.
Regardless of opinion on war and regardless of the country they fought for …here is a virtual salute for the brave human beings we lost (picture of a rose from my home).
There’s been a few “Greatest Generation” for their efforts and sacrifices.It’s hard to imagine the courage needed to step off one of those landing boats
My friend Walt Ehlers (google him) would tell you that you’d do it. He was in the back half of the first wave at Omaha. I have heard him recant his experience many times. I always learn something new when I listen to him. New about him, the situation, or sometimes even myself. Love that guy.
My father and uncle both volunteered while underage.I told them both that I doubt I would have done that.They both disagreed – I hope they were right.
Thanks, will check him out
The fear of being seen as a coward or as someone who let down his comrades can be greater than the fear of death. And when it isn’t, there are often other troops to your rear ready to shoot you for desertion.
Walt said they were all scared. How could you not be? He said that it was his 3rd amphibious landing. (Africa, Sicily, Normandy)He also told me once that wasn’t his worst battle. Worst one was at Al-Alamein when he and his brother defended a hill against 150 enemy by themselves……
This is one of a couple holidays that Canada observes on a different day from the US. We call it Remembrance Day & it’s in November.Georges Clemenceau who was the French president during WWI famously said: “War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.”Too bad that in recent wars, victory isn’t always so clear cut. Today, terrorism, information wars, civil wars & guerrilla warfare have changed the traditional nature of wars & their outcomes.
on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we will remember them.it’s a poignant moment in Britain, but is increasingly being shaped by the state for its own contemporary political requirements. distasteful.
Yup, Nov 11th. Same for Canada and in the Commonwealth.
We (among others) also observe ANZAC Day on 25 April — anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.
.Gallipoli and Breaker Morant — my favorite movies of all time.JLM.
“Shoot straight, you bastards!”
Early Mel Gibson. Great movie.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.At the going down of the sun and in the morning,We will remember them.Lest we forget.
I was fortunate to visit Normandy when I was 12 years old. It was one of the most powerful experiences in my life. I wish every American could visit it – it truly makes one so proud to be an American and the sacrifices others made so we could still be Americans.
Tell high school kids about this: normandyacademy.org Pretty cool way to learn about history-and to make it real for this generation. Broader point, learn the lessons of yesterday so it doesn’t happen again.
Every country in the world has a memorial day on a different date, we should all agree on one day to contemplate the insanity of war at the same moment in time.
i like the sentiment.it will never happen because it would introduce the notion of equivalence, and some governments invoke principles of morality to justify their wars, of good verses evil, when it is in fact normally economic considerations that drive their decisions to fight.
.As a former professional soldier and student of modern warfare, I generally agree intellectually with you.War is the last act of a failed diplomacy. This is why former Generals make such good Secretaries of State — they understand where this continuum leads. George Marshall being my exemplar along with Colin Powell.When one looks at the aggressive acts which have drawn America into wars, it is clear that America has often acted solely based upon the attack of an aggressor.JLM.
George Catlett Marshall & Plan. I remember writing a school essay on that subject, quite a while ago now.It’s all about foreign policy, influence beyond borders, the right to intervene to protect interests. Geographically America is a somewhat isolated country, and so it must protect itself from the consequential danger of economic isolation. Hence globalization.I agree. the last person one wants holding the sword is a warmonger.
.George Catlett Marshall is a VMI grad, my alma mater.The influence he had on the conduct and victory of WWII is beyond comprehension. Churchill, not one to share credit generously, called him the Architect of Victory.There is no scene more poignant in recorded history than the tribute that an aging and crying Churchill made at the death bed of Marshall at Walter Reed Hospital.Marshall was a soldier committed to defeating America’s enemies and decisively so and then he became a statesman of incredible vision in saving the European continent he had freed. He was a genius.When approached to write his memoirs in return for a $1MM check while sitting in the garden of his beloved Dodona Manor he replied: “I did not enter public service to aggrandize my purse.”Can you imagine a modern public figure saying such a thing?JLM.
no. a moral man.As Fred wrote in an earlier blog post, military families hate wars. it should always be the last resort.
It seems like Truman surrounded himself by a number of people with the same perspective. McCullough’s book on Truman, if you are into such things, was quite interesting.
.Everything that McCullough touches is brilliant.JLM.
Nice. I can imagine them saying it, until the opportunity actually presented itself 🙂 (See many ex-Presidents and ex-Vice-Presidents.)
Another famous quote of Georges Clemenceau:”War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.”
but the first is a patriot – hence the problem
They used to make good presidents, too.
.I believe that Dwight Eisenhower is the most underrated American President.A guy whose craft was warmaking kept us out of wars of all kinds with the Russians, the Chinese and got us out of Korea.He balanced — BALANCED — try that on for size given the knuckleheads running America today — BALANCED — eight straight budgets while building the American nuclear arsenal and initiating the Interstate Highway system.The guy knew how to run things. He was famous for demanding “complete staff work” — state the problem, identify solutions, cost the solutions out, recommend a course of action and be prepared to compare/contrast/defend your recommendation.In this manner, DDE made a huge number of decisions and was able to create real, meaningful progress. He knew how to run — anything: war, D Day, Columbia University, NATO, the entire US government.Our current leadership is so woefully lacking in basic executive decisionmaking ability — second only to their complete inability to tell the freakin’ truth — that it is like trying to compete against Michael Phelps without knowing how to swim.JLM.
“Our current leadership is so woefully lacking in basic executive decisionmaking ability…” I’m not certain I remember a truly honorable president who could run the government effectively.
Dwight D, The Last Republican .
.Perhaps what we really need today is some Eisenhower Republicans and some Truman Democrats?JLM.
I’m sure you’d decry contemporary Truman’s ties to contemporary Boss Pendergast. We all love the past until we have to face it.
Cross of iron speechhttp://m.youtube.com/#/watc…
what a leader he was
“War is the last act of a failed diplomacy.”Same as a spanking is the last tool of choice for a child that doesn’t listen. And while not every child will respond to the pain of a spanking and change behavior and while not every child needs a spanking because they are cut differently, it does have it’s place in the behavioral change toolbox..
.I am a huge fan of spankings — not beatings, just a nice quick decisive and conclusive spanking.This, of course, from a man whose wife says she wants to invest in a book to be written by me: “How Not To Parent”.I think discipline should be short and sweet. My Mom was the disciplinarian and if she gave you a swat, you truly deserved it.Mom was in cahoots with the Holy Spirit. They were a very tough tag team.JLM.
it won’t happen because most people don’t care enough to make it happen.
In every country, there such a thing as “[country] exceptionalism”
Do you think we could convince people to even believe in no war enough
.Noble sentiment indeed. I wonder if really we should ban together to eliminate war as an instrument of foreign policy. To act together preemptively.Right now we know that the situation with Iran and N Korea is winding its way toward a tragic conclusion. And for all of our American huffing and puffing, we are further from a solution than ever before. This is not canasta, this is deadly serious.When Iran was in revolt, we failed to act. Now we are left with the world’s largest sovereign exporter of terror on the verge of possessing nuclear weapons thereby dramatically increasing the likelihood they will be used but also certain to initiate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.How will we tell Iran’s neighbors that Iran and Israel can have nuclear weapons but they can not. It will not work.Look for the Pakistanis to become a major league pain in the world’s butt the second the US begins the drawdown in Afghanistan.JLM.
I am not saying to rais a white flag and let yourself be run over.My post was more an emotional one, seeing the graves in Normandy, or seeing my children run to the shelter yesterday in an air raid exercise in Tel Aviv.
Honor the troops by ending pointless wars everywhere
“to contemplate the insanity of war”War and conflict is the result of the fact that people (anecdotally men) have ambitions and desires. Without those ambition and desires there might likely be less war but there would also be less of the benefit that comes from ambitious men and woman and what they want out of life. I’m not talking about getting the transistor or the great things we have because of the russians. I’m simply talking about ambitious people in general and the needs they try to fulfill.Everyone draws the line at a different point. The vast majority of people aren’t willing to give up what they have to others and some naturally want more in varying degrees. But the idea that you will have the modern society that we have without men and women who are selfish, stubborn and willing to go to war (with people or countries) to achieve that is ridiculous. Ambitious people will inevitably have conflicts with others. Over time if it was possible for humans (or animals even) to work out their conflicts simply by having discussions that would have happened thousands of years ago.
I agree this is a noble idea and there is already a day that Commonwealth countries and I think the US recognize – Remembrance Day on 11/11 at 11. Here in Australia and New Zealand we also remember our Military on April 25. This date is significant for us because it was the day our young boys alighted at Gallipoli in Turkey only to be slaughtered in their thousands as they sat occupying a small slice of beach for months. The nation starts the day pre dawn with a dawn service and finishes the day with a game of two up (a gambling game). All shops are closed until lunch. In our fairly non-religious corner of the globe, this is Australia’s holy day and no one would ever dream of moving it for some global homogenisation.
Yes, the idea might not be very practical
.Godspeed and honor to our war dead on this sacred day of remembrance of their sacrifice.Our country and its freedoms were born at the point of a bloody bayonet. War was the instrument by which we were formed.In spite of that fact, we Americans are slow to anger and have not used war as an instrument of growth or conquest. Thrice we have come to the aid of Europe and underwritten with American blood and treasure her freedoms.War always represents the greatest failings of mankind but when thrust upon us, as in the cowardly Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, requires us to confront and vanquish evil. Evil.War takes a terrible price on a free people and our warriors have paid that price. Today we honor them.Where do we get such men and women? Where?From the soul of America and the strength of our freedoms and the commitment of a free people to freedom and liberty.In the future, it will be important to ensure our peace through strength.God bless America and honor to our war dead.JLM.
Well said, JLM.
+1. Can’t say it better than that, good sir.
Mr. Minch,As the resident History Professor of AVC, edify me about Hawaii. The attack on Pearl Harbor occurred in 1941, which forced the U.S. entry into WWII. The war ended in ’45. Yet Hawaii didn’t become a state until 1955. This timeline is one of those “things they didn’t teach me in school” things that confuses me. Makes me think we fetishsize Pearl Harbor now, but didn’t take Hawaii seriously then. Set me straight here, prof!
.Hawaii — like Texas, California, Vermont — was a nation before it became a territory of the US.Hawaii was screwed by powerful agriculture interests who wanted it to become a US territory but not a state because as a territory it could import very cheap labor and could not as a state.The American role in overthrowing the legitimate government of Hawaii is a story that is not well known but is an example of very bad stuff we did in the early 1900s. It was reprehensible.I think it became a state in 1959 but I am operating from memory. I would go a six pack of Shiner that it was not 1955.The really big thing about Hawaii, in the interests of the US geographically, was the port at Pearl Harbor. The best in the world, perhaps?The fact that Hawaii had an Asian majority, had run afoul of powerful agricultural interests and the port all made a toxic mix that kept Hawaii from gaining statehood. After we had stolen the country fair and square, right?JLM.
As always, you’re spot on re the date. I’ll blame beer stained note cards! Question: if Samoi was bombed tomorrow by terrorists, what reaction? I know they’re not the same, but curious nonetheless!
.If you are talking about the island in Thailand — Koh Samui — then our reaction would be one of sorrow and mutual support.Thailand and the United States are very close in their view of the world and in foreign policy cooperation and coordination. They are very reliable allies.When Mumbai was attacked, there was not a lot that the US could do.There is a “global war on freedom” and for our part we call it a “global war on terrorism” though our President seems to think we have gotten to the “sell by” date. Terrorism does not have a shelf life.The Thais are a very capable people with a love of freedom. They would deal with any terrorism with a fierce self interest — why not?JLM.
Sorry prof, that beer was staining all my note cards last night. Meant Samoa, particularly American Samoa.
This day always reminds me of Churchill’s famous line from his 1940 speech: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”Thank you. Salute.
Not to play down the significance of today, or this post….but I was taken back as to how pristine the grave markers were as well as the finely manicured lawn in the photo.I went back to the post from almost three years ago…and you made similar comment. …….”As my friend Dave told me when we were planning this trip, “the americans do military cemeteries really well.” He’s right. I’ve been to a fair number of them and they are always maintained immaculately and are very moving.”
.Normandy is like going to church. It is reverent and hallowed ground.JLM.
Presumably, the French are maintaining the American graves on their soil, no?Richard Powers, in his semi-autobiographical novel Galatea 2.2, wrote about how Dutch families would each ‘adopt’ the grave of a fallen foreign soldier. In his book, that’s how his girlfriend’s parents ended up in a Polish neighborhood in Chicago: they were assisted in immigrating by the parents of the Polish American soldier whose grave they maintained.
Behind each bland news story on the latest death in Iraq or Afghanistan there is a real story of a family missing a key individual.Nearly 10 years ago I came back from a mission to a months worth of mail. In that stack was Time’s Person of the Year issue. That year it was the American Soldier. As I was paging through the I can across this article http://www.time.com/time/ma… That’s how I found out my friend Ben Colgan from Army Officer Candidate School had been killed.
.Losing a buddy sucks. Godspeed to Ben Colgan. A grateful Nation mourns every loss.JLM.
Why is it that there seems to be a sad story attached to most heroes.So sorry about your friend and how you found out about his death. That really sucks.
Masters of War – Bob Dylan
Thanks for the thoughtful and thought provoking post, Fred. Good reminder about the real purpose of Mem. Day.
Thanks for posting this. Today is not about hamburgers and hot dogs–or unfortunately, politics–but remembering millions who have fallen in service
Our remembrance in the UK is “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” ie the time of Armistice in WWI. But the day does not matter – it is the sentiment.My picture that I recall is of the horror of the WWII Bergen Belsen Holocaust Camp in northern Germany which I visited once (and mentally since many times) and will never revisit physically.My grandfather (shot in the trenches in WWI) died of his wounds after WWII – he simply said – “The man who shot me just did a better job – so don’t hate the people change the system”I never knew him (and I can mourn that) – but I can pass his wise words on – “Don’t hate the people – change the system”.I believe that those who seek betterment should generally work for change from within because all lasting change starts there. I think US and global foreign policy needs to practice looking in the mirror to see that they have their own house in order, before intervening externally.
I keep thinking about the fact that the people I grew up with are very distant from war – that it is a near miracle I know soliders, because I think if I stayed closer to home, I wouldn’t have.
There has been an economic draft in the years since the military draft ended
Due to the AFQT requirements, many of the poorest Americans are intelligible for military service, but it’s true that the weak economy makes military service more attractive for others. I think we would be better off doing back to a draft, with no exemption/deferrals for college. Not everyone could serve of course, because there are more people of draft age than can be accommodated, but I’d start with the children of members of Congress, and then go after the wealthiest zip codes next. Then we might be a little more judicious about our wars.
If you can’t visit a grave sight today, go to mymemorialday.org; record a video and say thanks. I am on the board of the nationalww2museum.org. I never served, and it’s my way of giving back to those that did. I have met the last living Doolittle Raiders, Medal of Honor recipients, people who were on the first wave at Omaha Beach, Pathfinders who jumped behind lines in Normandy, POWs from both theaters, and all kinds of people in between. The living think about their buddies that didn’t make it back every day. Today, I will take a little time, and say a prayer for them too.
I try to remember civilians who die during a war, too, on this day.
many do. one of the “best” things about the current war is that the percentage of civilian casualties is lower than other wars.
that’s because our government got smart and began to label everyone they kill an “enemy combatant.” civilian casualty problem solved!
I am cynical, but not that cynical.
We are in DC this Memorial weekend and went with the kids to the WWII and Vietnam memorials. It was a unique time to be here on this holiday and educate them about values, sacrifice, and the greater good.As a former serviceman (of another country), I’ve experienced from young age the price of fallen brothers in arms. It heightens the value of life. I am not one of those who promotes mandatory conscription. But I do think service is noble, and imparts something hard to gain elsewhere.I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to live in this great country. And today I remember the incredible sacrifices of generations of service men and women made to allow me to do so.I am so grateful, and so lucky to be alive now and here.
“As we wrap up wars half way around the world and bring our soldiers home,”really? we’re wrapping up wars? maybe not. http://www.presstv.ir/detai…there’s still a lot of opium in afghanistan that the CIA needs to import into the US to fund their black budget operations. “we” (i’m too high class to associate myself with such shameful behavior) are going to be there a long time.but i know most tech folks don’t care about any of this. they don’t care about 9/11 being an inside job, they don’t care about nonstop war, the only thing they care about is their right to remain ignorant. which is fine — folks are free to be fools if they’d like. but all the crying about immigration restrictions that prevent startups from reducing their labor costs, onerous cybersecurity burdens like CISPA, anti-competing currency legislation, and even pro-patent troll legislation is ultimately rooted in war. those who want true change in governance need to address the war issue. the tech community doesn’t have the heart or consciousness for it which is they are going to fail, and why i’m going to rub it in.related to that point is that until a change in governance comes (until we progress beyond the nation-state and towards governance by cybernetworks), we are living in the application layer. this world is basically a “one graph to rule them all” world where google, amazon, and a few other titans dominate everything. startups exist to flesh out their platforms. only a change in governance can unlock the next big wave that takes disrupts google/amazon.
You might like the recent New Yorker mag piece on the apolitical valley and how perhaps organizing for visas might be a step toward more political action
LOL @ apolitical. Immigration is a political issue, one on which the interests and opinions of SV elites and most Americans diverge.
lol…..we need to get coffee this week, messaging you about that now
We visited The National D-Day Memorial yesterday. It’s well worth the side trip if you are ever in the Roanoke or Lynchburg VA area. On Saturday we hiked to the site of B-25 crash on Sharp Top Mountain in VA in 1943. All five airmen died. A lot of the plane is still there. Standing amidst the wreckage was a humbling experience, even 70 years later.
A draft would give everyone a stake in sending troops off to war
A draft didn’t seem to produce much leadership sanity in the Vietnam days, though.
i believe it helped unite the protests that hastened the endthe only people with skin in the military now are those who choose to serve — either the elite who enter as officers or the poor who serve as a ladder up and out of where they are
Thank you, Fred, for helping to keep perspective and priorities in proper alignment.
Normandy, as Sicily with the allied desambarkment. I fight every day with who, in Sicily and Italy, compliant about US base etc. And every time, every time, I recall them with all guys dead in Sicily and Italya (and europe of course) to defend the freedom. For every cross I ask to who complaint the guy (from US, New Zealand, UK etc) dead for each of us. My great respect and prey for every of that cross.
US govt is massacring it own Army to prove some stupid point. Drone King is no different from Bushism.
it will never happen because it would introduce the notion of equivalence, and some governments invoke principles of morality to justify their wars, of good verses evil, when it is in fact normally economic considerations that drive their decisions to fight.proteindiatx
Something poignant about seeing the individual crosses representing individual lives, people. It is easy to forget that connection and on days like this, I force myself to let it register — each cross = a person, and for most a set of family and friends who suffered and mourned a loss . Same with the annual memorial done by Pepperdine University in Malibu that represents each individual killed in 9/11 with a flag. Most of the flags are the Red,White & Blue, but for those who were not American citizens, their national flag is used — standing out in the crowd.What’s even more unsettling about the graves is the realization that this is just one gravesite in one location, representing hundreds of other cemetaries filled with veterans who died in a war.#thankful