On Memorial day
I come from a somewhat long line of military service. When my grandfather immigrated to the US he served in the Navy and fought in the Korean war to become a citizen. My father served in the Army and enlisted specifically to fight in Vietnam. Then I went off to the Marine Corps shortly after 9/11 and subsequently Iraq. War is hell, but then again so are people. It’s Memorial day, which means today is my time honored tradition to tell you all to just stop.
The dead know only one thing, it is better to be alive. Conversely, government knows that it is better to have a dead hero than a living headache. People are messy, someone who dies valiantly in combat is a prop that can be wielded like a sword. There are roughly 362 days that are not holidays to recognize veterans and the government does everything they possibly can to shit all over us in that time only to argue about who is the most patriotic of the bunch anytime a military-themed holiday rolls around. Veterans are literally killing themselves in VA parking lots to draw attention to the lack of help we have. No one seems to care about veterans until a holiday rolls around.
I’m not against the holiday, far from it and I think those who gave their lives deserve all the pomp and circumstance they can get. It’s important to remember, not so much the individual people unless they were close to you or you are interested in learning, but the history. We’re doomed to repeat that history if we don’t learn from it and holidays like today serve a bigger purpose. It’s a way of reminding people that we’re all flawed sacks of meat with a spark, until we’re not.
What I’m particularly angry about is the weaponization of patriotism that occurs around the holidays. Instead of honoring the dead and/or making things more tolerable for those of us who served and “lived,” if you could call what I’m doing living, the GOP uses the time to spew hateful rhetoric. To prove they are the most patriotic patriot alive and score a few political points or a few minutes of fame on a news broadcast. I’m sure that’s exactly what those who gave their lives hoped would happen.
I’m sad to say the dead are gone and contrary to popular belief the only voice they have comes from the living. Veterans die at a higher rate than almost any group in the US and that’s intentional. A dead veteran is a weapon, a living one is a liability. Look no further than the reaction the GOP had to the January 6th insurrection for the level of support that people in uniform should expect to receive. Look at all the horror stories of veterans in the VA hospital being abused and frankly tortured.
It’s tiring to see the same things happen year after year. Nothing changes for veterans, if anything it’s getting worse. Then a military holiday rolls around and suddenly the GOP thinks no one is patriotic enough. We’re not remembering the dead the right way, a simple tweet to enjoy the long weekend gets turned into hate speech because no one ACTUALLY cares about veterans as people. They simply care about veterans as an idea, a concept. They see us the way they have always seen us, expendable, a weapon to be used and forgotten when it’s no longer useful.
For a good chunk of America Memorial day means nothing. It means one extra day to relax. And good for you, seriously. I don’t care what you do for Memorial day, celebrate (or don’t) however you want. Memorial day is for those of us who lost friends, family, people we served with to get the chance to remember them. To morn for the people they were, to tell their stories, to laugh and even to cry. I’ve cried burying friends, there’s nothing un-manly about it, so go ahead my dudes, cry if you need to.
Military holidays should serve as a reminder that war should be the last option. As a reminder that the people who fight are just that, people. They have friends, families, history, a past and at one point they had a future. They are more than just a name on a wall or a picture on a grave. More importantly, the people who served are not a political prop to be used whenever it’s convenient. I refuse to be a weapon for toxic patriotism and I refuse to go quietly into the night when my friends are being used like that.
The dead know only one thing, it is better to be alive. Because the silence they leave behind is too often filled by the people screaming the loudest. The same people who don’t give a shit about veterans unless it benefits them.