Memorial Day is a time to reflect on those who have sacrificed themselves for their country. People across America who sacrificed their lives, leaving painful voids in their families hearts, no longer able to experience each phase of life, and their final seconds of this world filled with fear, as they felt their bodies turn cold before they passed. America has been at war for the majority of my twenty-six years of life. Soldier do sacrifice their lives but they also give up their time, limbs, and mental stability. Today is primarily for the fallen, all levels of sacrificed should be acknowledged, because all of them gave something.
World War 2 will make any individual feel molecular with numbers, conversation, or impact on the world. Millions of people dying for an outcome that would decide the fate of the earth moving forward. When you stand in the center of the WW2 Monument, you see the large stone pillars for every state, gold stars shine from a wall, which represent 400,000 U.S. Soldiers a lone killed in the war. It becomes clear how important the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is because maybe it’s not possible to count every American death across Europe, Asia, or Africa. Pearl Harbor, The Battle of Midway, or The Atomic Bomb were some of the bloodiest events that redefined human history in terms of tactics, power, and technology. World War 2 must always be remembered because it’s global impact has calculated who you are today.
Memorial Day formed a deeper importance when I visited the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials in Washington D.C.Walking through the dark green gardens of the Korean War Memorial, I mistook it for Vietnam, because the long grass, and dark green
trees gave a reminder of the uncertainty soldiers felt, as they trekked jungles. Staring into the face of one statue, at twenty-three, I realized the dedications of these statues depicting emotions from fear to anger, were primarily for soldiers who never lived to be as old as me. Sometimes, I think Korea doesn’t get the acknowledgement it deserves. Following World War 2, America cycling into the “American Dream” era of G.I. Bills and houses for everyone, it’s evidently important to remember those during a time when it’s easy to forget.
I would come upon the vast marble Vietnam Memorial Wall with any enthusiasm of my time in D.C. leaving my face. In a generation of radical movements, Vietnam represents a war that ruined the lives of our youth. Boys were drafted to go into humid, insect filled, jungles to fight an enemy that used suicide bombings as a part of their guerrilla warfare tactics. My mother spoke of her cousin, who in his sixties, was informed by doctors he had a year to live, most likely because of chemical damage from Agent Orange in Vietnam. That summer of 2014, in Arlington Cemetery, they buried a Vietnam Admiral, was tortured for two years in captivity, and went on to publish about his time in imprisonment. Vietnam Veterans came home to be spit on, looked down on by the public, and had no real resolves for what they had just lived through. The Vietnam War shaped my views on how to treat veterans, because regardless of your global/political opinion, these wars are filled with kids just trying to do their time, and get home.
I’m not sure what veterans take from the wars Post-WW2. Fighting and dying around the Middle East, some come home suffering from PTSD, and then there’s perfectly functional people as well. Maybe it’s a case by case basis on how they look at war. What has been consistent is the sacrifice, age, and social class of the soldiers fighting the wars. That’s why you pay respect, at the end of the day, it’s a middle class or financially challenged human being, following the orders of higher powers, and trying to come home. I don’t agree with everything I’ve seen in my life time, visiting the Washington D.C. Memorials, reflecting on what people gave, what they’ll never see, personal freedom, how fast democracies can change, how those guys were not much different than me, made me realize how important it is to pay tribute, because we get to pursue our passions tomorrow.