What strange and unsettling times in which we live. Traditionally, this weekend marks the beginning of summer. What will summer be like in this time of social distancing, closed or restricted restaurants and massively reduced travel? I have no idea except to say it will be different than any other summer of my almost 65 years on this planet.
What has not changed, however, is what this holiday is about. On the news this morning there was a piece discussing a poll that showed 45% of Americans don’t know that Memorial Day is about honoring those who gave their lives for our country. I wish I could say that I do not believe this report or that it surprises me. Sadly, it rings true.
Depending on one’s perspective, we have now been at war for 30 years - many would
consider the First Gulf War as the start point. No one can question the fact that we have been at war for the almost 19 years since September 11th. Huge numbers of men and women have served, and no small number have paid the ultimate price. The reality, however, is that the burdens of this most recent war – and the Vietnam war before it – have largely been borne by a narrow section of our population, a swath of society that is not privileged or affluent. In the world of the educated elite - to use a somewhat tired cliché - few have taken the risk of serving and most would be appalled at the thought of their children doing so. Hence, that privileged world is largely untouched by the sacrifices made by those who are less fortunate. If one does not find this dichotomy troubling, they are delusional.
For over 20 years our law practice has represented veterans and military families. I am an Army veteran and I grew up in a Navy family. Yet, even for me, I am sometimes appalled that the sacrifices that have been made by others seem remote and disconnected from my everyday life. I am a lawyer and I must plead guilty to being among that educated elite – and at times being way too comfortable about my world - but that should be no excuse for me or anyone else.
On this weekend, let’s all take some time to ponder those fallen men and women. It is
meet and right so to do – to use that great language from the Book of Common Prayer. As the old saying goes, freedom is not free. We should honor those whose blood has paid for the world we now enjoy.