Robert Hitt Neil Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Memorial Day has deeper meaning than just another holiday

Memorial Day is coming up. Do we remember what it really means, or do we just welcome it as another Holiday, a three-day weekend to be enjoyed with family, barbecue, the Swimming Hole being open for another summer?

We are in the midst of another war, an unpopular one, as most wars seem to be nowadays. It has turned into something longer term than anyone ever expected, because we haven’t been able to get the folks whom we have liberated from a murdering tyrant to accept our form of government, in an area of the world where people haven’t been able to govern themselves for so long that the entire concept is incomprehensible.

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In addition, the country itself is divided into at least three major factions who all hate each other, and their religion seems to preach that killing is a good thing, as long as you are killing the bad guys, their god says.  Notice that is an uncapitalized god.  

Also understand that these thoughts are coming from a guy who has never been Over There and doesn’t hanker to go now. But I have served my country in combat and have been shot at, and shot back, and have toted my share of body bags. I knew some of the men for whom this upcoming Holiday was designated.

Back then, there was a draft in this country, but now we have a volunteer armed force, who could have chosen to go to grad school, or work for the city, or sell used cars, or be doctors and nurses.  Yet they chose to carry arms to insure that the rest of us can do pretty much what we want to – even sell illegal drugs, if that’s what your choice is, I reckon.

Sadly, many of these young men and women have died, and even more have been grievously wounded in the past couple of years, long after most of us figured they’d be back home safely, maybe even guarding our southern borders of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

I don’t know all the whys and wherefores politically, but I do know that if four groups of dedicated nutcases hadn’t flown big airplanes into buildings and a field on American soil, taking American lives on a scale greater than Pearl Harbor, we likely would not be fighting over there right now.  And I also know that, as of this writing, those people haven’t done that any more, in this country!

However, I will make two empirical statements: 1) if we still had a draft in this country – if every American young man or woman had to serve a year or two in the armed services – we’d have a better nation; I have worked in the Kairos International Prison Ministry for nearly 15 years, and we’re approaching 3 million people incarcerated in America, half of whom would not be there if we still had a draft, in my opinion.  2) We ought not to be fighting a free war; if it was up to me, I’d tell those folks, “Okay, guys, we have liberated you, and it cost us 450 gazillion bucks; we will take that repayment in free oil.”  

With gasoline at three bucks a gallon, let’s guard those desert wells, pump into our own takers, and park them in Noo Awleans to unload and refine into 50 cent gas for our own cars.

Yet no matter how you feel about the current war we’re fighting, don’t let your feelings for that blind you to the sacrifices that these soldiers and sailors are making nowadays, in the name of America and freedom. You can politically be against the war, while still sending clean sheets to Iraq, as I read some mom was organizing in the paper this morning.

And in spite of the fact that the USA only won Second Place in the Southeast Asian War Games in my generation’s war, don’t forget that we men and women in the armed forces back then fought for what their government had declared a righteous cause, just like the generation before us fought in Korea, and the generation before them fought in Europe and the Pacific, and their daddies (like Betsy’s daddy) fought in World War One, which I have read was politicized as The War To End All Wars.  Right.

Generational lines crossed all those wars, so that sometimes fathers and sons were fighting in the same war.  

They were called, and they went, and they fought, and some never made it home. That’s what we’re supposed to remember!