Memorial Day

Two years ago I wrote a Letter to the Editor inspired by the Memorial Day Concert on PBS.  The Leader chose not to print it, so I am posting it here, with comments:

To the Editor

Last night I watched the Memorial Day Concert from Washington. And I wept. I wept during the National Anthem. I wept during the number from Les Mis. I wept at the story of the National Guard man who killed himself.

But mostly, I felt deep disgust.

This concert is, ostensibly, to honor the brave men and women who have fought and died so that this country can be free. Please tell me how more than 2200 dead Americans in Afghanistan (and no one knows how many Afghans); 55,000 dead Americans in Vietnam (and about 500,000 Vietnamese); 37,000 dead Americans in Korea (over half a million Koreans); and more than one million deaths in Iraq have made this country safer or freer.

Those numbers do not include the wounded. How many returned – or were left behind – with catastrophic brain injuries? How many returned –or were left behind – without limbs? By the way, they tell us that PTSD is a treatable disorder.  But how many veterans are being treated?

This concert is nothing but a glorification of war. The more it is glorified, the longer war will continue. For some – Haliburton, the Pentagon and others – that is a good thing. But I ask, how dare a country entice its citizens (and non-citizens!!!!!: foreigners cannot vote in the US but they can die for it; 18 year-olds are not responsible and mature enough to have a beer with their buddies, but they can risk life or limb for their great country) to sacrifice themselves for a non-event of an ideal: “freedom”. The US is in no danger of invasion, no danger of a totalitarian take-over by foreigners, and no danger of subversive infiltration, which war wouldn’t prevent anyway.

The stories presented during this concert are horrible. The heroism depicted i incredible. But men and women should not be expected to be heroic to this extent. Those who volunteer for the armed forces may be misguided, but they know what they are getting into. It is their choice to go to war if called.

The National Guard, on the other hand, sign up to – well – guard the nation. They fully expect to be called to assist in natural disasters, civil unrest and other crises within our borders. They do not sign up to be sent to for months at a time God-forsaken places where they are shot at, maimed or killed – and come home to no job.

I expect a lot of outrage at this letter. I just hope that the outrage is as much against unnecessary war as it is against me.

Elizabeth Whitehouse

This year’s concert celebrated disabled veterans.  It was even more awful than the one in 2013, with stories of half-men who came home and have had to fight every day just to keep living

Miss Saigon is a wonderful musical.  I have seen it on stage and I know it well. The other day I listened again and was struck by one sentence.  John, the friend who bought Kim for Chris is working with refugees in Thailand and he sees the thousands or bui doi – the half caste children left behind by American soldiers.  These are the children who cannot hide their shame because you can see it is on their faces.  Then he says – and I weep whenever I hear this – “They are the constant reminder of all the good we failed to do.”

Maybe we can do some good by making sure that concerts like this are not necessary in the future.  Let’s put an end to war.

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