That’s why we urge everyone to take a pause this Memorial Day weekend to honor those who have served, and are serving, in the US military. It may be at a parade or a remembrance ceremony, it may be at church, or may be just about anywhere, but take a moment to reflect on what that service to our country has meant. Our troops have taken their orders and performed their duties around the world, and in more places and more often that it might seem.
Consider the conflicts the country has been engaged in during the past century, and how in some way Memorial Day marks something significant.
One hundred years ago, on what many still called Decoration Day in honor of the American Civil War, the First World War was just a month away. Archduke Ferdinand would be assasinated in Sarajevo in June, 1914. By the war’s end in 1918, the United States had entered into what was then called “the war to end all wars.” Great armies fought and soldiers died on a scale never before seen.
Seventy years ago WWII was in full fury. Millions of men and women were mobilized and fighting was taking place around the globe. Less that two weeks after Memorial Day, the Allied Forces would invade France on D-Day. The war would culminate a year later with the fall of Berlin and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Sixty years ago North and South were fighting to a standstill in Korea. While the war was almost over, the period was the beginning of the great struggle between communism and capitalism. That struggle sometimes ran hot, but mostly turned into four decades of the cold war, as the US and the Soviet Union tried to keep pace with one another, both economically and militarily.
Fifty years ago the war in Vietnam, once again between North and South, was beginning to escalate. Two-and-a-half months after Memorial Day, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution would be passed, and the war would accelerate quickly.
Forty years ago the Vietnam war had passed its zenith and was close to an end. Saigon would fall the next year, and President Richard Nixon was less than three months away from resigning in disgrace after the Watergate scandal.
Thirty years ago the US had just invaded Grenada, and by the end of the 1980s US troops would see aciton in Panama as well. We also undertook covert actions in Nicauragua, which culminated in the Iran-Contra scandal. The US has constantly maintained a strong military hand in the Carribean and Central America, dating back centuries to the times of privateers and founding of our fledgling nation.
Tweny years ago the first Gulf War had come and gone, but Saddam Hussein was still in Iraq. The table was still set for the US to continue what has now become a seemingly-perpetual war in the middle east.
Ten years ago the US had invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Fierce fighting was underway in Iraq, and no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. Now, we’re still in Afghanistan, with plans to have troops withdrawn by the end of the year. Iraq teters on the brink of instability, but we have mostly left the country, for now.
Regardless of the era, regardless of where, regardless of why, brave men and women have gone into battle for this country. They deserve our praise and our gratitude for their service. Not just on Memorial Day, but every day.