by Eric Field
“Only the dead have seen the end of war”. -George Santayana
This last Monday was Memorial Day. For most Americans, this translates into an extra day of paid time off, an opportunity to barbecue or go to the beach. During the last decade or so, Memorial Day has turned into a sort of “Veterans Day light”, a second opportunity to thank military veterans for their time in uniform. While both are understandable, even laudable, reasons for enjoying the day off, neither attitude addresses the root purpose of the holiday.
Memorial Day began as an event known as “Decoration Day” following the War Between the States. Memorial Day represented one of the first grassroots efforts of Americans of all regions and races to come to terms with the costs and consequences of the war which took at least 750,000 American lives. The event gradually expanded to include memorials to all American war dead, as veterans of the Indian Wars and Naval expeditions joined the ranks of America’s fallen. America’s presence in two world wars, as well as perpetual military deployment following World War II has resulted in an almost constant increase in the number of American service members who had given their lives during armed conflict and stability operations.
During recent years, Americans have seemingly become numb to the costs and consequences of war. The mainstream media rarely mentions the 6,467 operational deaths resulting from the Global War on Terror. Less attention is given to the nearly 40,000 wounded of the conflict. In fairness to journalists, the federal government does not make it easy to find exactly how many service members have given life or limb during the Long War. For instance, there is no single database documenting all casualties in on central location. While it might be unfair to call the government’s behavior “fraud”, this apparent evasion suggests that Pentagon officials have little interest in presenting the human costs of armed conflict.
To make matters, even less attention is given to the long-term suffering of combat wounded and other disabled veterans. Bright, athletic men and women who can no longer walk, see, or live independently do not make for good television of news copy. Both presidential frontrunners are advocates for universal health care, nonetheless, neither has given more than superficial lip service to the plight of disabled veterans, beyond their capitalizing on a few photo opportunities while on the campaign trail…Continue reading