I grew up in the middle of the Vietnam War. While we sat in our high school government class and debated the pros and cons of whether our country should be fighting a battle to stop Communism on foreign soil, the sad reality was that the male portion of the students seated there were likely to be drafted, and thus in the middle of that war, when their education came to an end. Many from my class served. Some sustained injuries; one gave his life.
I suppose that's why I found the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., so moving when I first saw it...and each subsequent time as well. All those names. Brothers, sons, fathers, friends. The black marble seemed to stretch forever but then it must in order to hold more than 58,000 names. With the flag in the foreground and the reflection of the Washington monument framed in clouds in the background, one could almost get lost in the beauty of it. Almost...but there's nothing beautiful about losing so many young lives.
For my generation it was Vietnam but for my parent's it was World War II and Korea. And for my children it was the Gulf War, Iraq and now Afghanistan. Sadly, there seems no shortage of conflicts where the brave men and women who serve our country must risk their lives to protect our freedom. And yet they go.
Whatever and wherever the conflict, the message to our fallen heroes is still the same: We will honor and remember your sacrifice with gratitude and respect.
Memorial Day 2012