Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s about honoring soldiers who died serving the United States in all of it’s wars. It started after the Civil War in 1868 and was called Decoration Day. It was eventually called Memorial Day and extended to all soldiers in all US wars. It also marks the commercial start of the summer season. Memorial Day is often mixed up with Veteran’s Day. The difference is, that Memorial Day is for soldiers that died, while Veteran’s day commemorates soldiers that are still alive.
Holidays like these are often celebrated in a bitter sweet way, joyous for the country, but sad for those who have lost someone. Most of the time, the nation is torn between two viewpoints on war. One, that giving one’s life for their country is the most noble thing to do and that when your country calls, you go without question. The other, that many of the US wars did not warrant themselves and/or the lives lost in them. Sometimes, there is a mix of views, like giving one’s life for their country is noble, yet the wars one gives it to must be worth it for the country and lives in question. Memorial Day is more sobering than Veteran’s Day, as the soldiers commemorated today have actually died in service. The impact of war is more realized, as people remember and mourn their loved ones. However, it still conjures up heroic ideals and stories, glossing over the human cost of war. War is a highly charged topic these days, as people lie on both extremes of the spectrum.
People have questioned the wars we got into far before today. In WWI, many were disillusioned by our involvement in a war that Europe started. Wilson ran for a second term because of his “He kept us out of the war” slogan. However, his excuse to go into war was to make the world “safe for democracy”. It brought up questions about how far we should get involved in foreign conflicts. Many were isolationist after WWI. Many were anti-war after WWI had passed. WWII started the same way until Pearl Harbor. After though, more joined since it was a direct attack on the US. In many ways, WWII fostered the opposite effects, driving people towards going to war. Many did dwell on the atrocities that the Germans and the other axis powers did once they found out and WWII has been thought of as the US saving the world. By far though, the Vietnam war was the biggest challenge to getting involved in foreign wars. Many protested it vehemently and defied the draft. People burned draft cards and even took out anger on returning soldiers. The draft was ended after Vietnam. Today, views are mixed. Many do not like the US getting into foreign wars and the fact that people are no longer forced to go to war compounds it since now it’s a personal decision.
Overall, questions conjured up are things like “does your country’s motives for getting involved in wars supersede one’s own moral compass and judgement about what is the right course of action?” or “What ideals/goals are worth sacrificing your life for the greater good?” as well as “Does being a citizen of a country mean that the country’s needs and values supersede your own?” In essence, “is it what you can do for your country, or what it can do for you that matters?” among many more questions. I think no one really has definite answers. The answers can only be thought up by each individual person as each person has their own values that they hold dear that another may not. It is a deeply personal choice now to go or not to go.
That being said, I commemorate all fallen soldiers, whether they wanted to be there or not. Especially, since many had no choice up until after Vietnam, they deserve recognition too even if they resisted fighting until the end. Their stories may not be so heroic and noble, but they had to fight to survive day to day for a country that forced them to. I also don’t blame the soldier that did go willingly to wars that weren’t needed since they answered questions like those mentioned for themselves and decided ultimately that it was worth it. Whether the war was useful or not, having the will to give up your life for something is a momentous decision. Also, all of the facts may have been hidden behind propaganda enticing them to join. I think we should have a holiday for fallen soldiers in all countries. Even our enemies had to sacrifice for their own countries. They were either forced or enticed to join too and gave up their lives. In many wars, the only difference between us and them in battle was the uniform.