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“Happy Memorial Day” Doesn’t Cut It Right Now

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We need to learn how to serve again.

James Johnston Tombstone Jon Johnston

There is no greater evil than trapping honest man with his own honesty, yet this is what we do when we ask young men to volunteer for military service. We understand their exuberance, their willingness to prove themselves, and then, we send them off to die in foreign places when it appears that there is little need for them to do so beyond the whims of politicians who are unwilling to correct the situation.

As a society we seem to feel few qualms about it.

We don't bother with a draft anymore. Perhaps if we did, we wouldn’t be so quick to send our own children off to war.

Instead, we ask those who already feel a duty, a call, to sacrifice themselves for us for no other reason than we all know that they will do it. This isn't just about the armed services. It includes many walks of life - the police, the medical profession, paramedics, EMTs, clergy, and even farmers (as they are called to the land).

We, as a society, ask all these people to do these things, regardless of their rewards, especially those who go off to fight in places we wouldn’t even visit on vacations.

Today we'll all wish each other a "Happy Memorial Day", but t won't be happy for some. It will be an real remembrance of those they lost, and those that aren't lost mentally or physically, then a remembrance of their damage. The rest of us will maybe have some pulled pork, as is the case with my family, and hope for good weather.

I'll watch my youngest son march in our local Memorial day parade for the last time. He will graduate from high school in June and go on to college at the University of Minnesota (sigh). He will not serve in the military. I did not serve. None of my children have. This is the way it is for most Americans.

I might go down to my local VFW and talk to some of the Vietnam vets I know who just now are coming to grips with what they experienced in the Vietnam war. You might ask, or wonder why it's taken this long. It’s taken this long because when you’re young you can live your life. You work, marry, maybe breed, and you have so many things to keep you occupied that you can push away the things that trouble you. As you get older you start to look back and examine inward and wonder what it was you did that made a difference on this planet. It is that reflection on life that leaves these men troubled.

There is no statute of limitation on horror.

So few of us actually serve. And when I say "serve", I don't mean something exclusive to the armed services, or the vocations I've mentioned above. We have become a self-absorbed society. We march for things - women, science, black lives. We tweet and we think that this makes a difference.

"Oh, but we are activists", we say to ourselves and then buy the t-shirt to prove to others that we are worthy of whatever club we’ve joined, but end in the end it is symbolism and accomplishes nothing.

Perhaps all this is "old man" cynicism.

From an objective point of view the world is much better off than it's ever been in mankind's history. We have less wars, less killing, less disease, and even less poverty. Yet we act every day as if things are always going to hell.

Perhaps this is the result of all those men and women who went before us. It is those who sacrificed in the name of our country, and freedom, that built this world and made it a better place.

Perhaps the best way we can honor them is to recognize the fact that we live in a better world and stop arguing and complaining so much about our existence.

Perhaps, we could learn to serve again; serve each other, offering a hand out in greeting and a simple clasp on the shoulder to affirm each other than we’re all in this together.