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Memorializing Those We've Lost

Many of us int he United States of America celebrate today for having a day off from work. We plan vacations, weddings, family visits, and peaceful relaxation. We catch up on reading, DVR, or maybe some household projects that need a little extra attention. Children gear up for pool openings. School staff and faculties prepare for summer vacation. Retail promotes their half-off extravaganzas, and patrons fill parks and city squares for festivals, concerts, and community activities.

I see American flags, Facebook posts, and patriotic messages throughout the weekend, but I wonder how much we truly understand about today, and the deeper message behind it. We honor those who sacrificed their lives for a "greater cause" while serving this country in war, conflict, and peace making campaigns. The men and women who have made this sacrifice worked today. They likely worked every holiday. the men and women who continue to serve follow suit, as those who came and left before them.

As a country, we must be unified, at least on some level, and not just during times of duress or attack on our own soil. We owe homage to our service men and women, both living and beyond. We also owe it to ourselves, military, their families, and the world to take a deeper look at the source of these sacrifices. War is horrible!It is not glorious. It is not a game where a macho soldier can respawn. It is not a one-sided, right or wrong agenda. There are real people, fighting with real weapons, really hurting and killing each other for real causes both sides believe in. Sometimes that cause is a national agenda. Other times, that cause may be moral or religious based. What I hear most, however, from the mend and women with boots on the ground is that they are fighting for each other. Whatever got them there takes second place to those right ther with them.

This perspective may be difficult to hear, for some, and may evoke disagreement. That's okay; it's what we've grown to expect, because of our rights. Perhaps an entitlement. Yes, "entitlement." The argument is true - many people have died for this right. Though, I didn't. Many of you reading this post didn't. In fact, most of the people in our country who benefit from this right didn't. I pose the suggestion that it has become an entitlement to many (not all) when we so willingly send others to fight wars for which we tell ourselves are for liberties and freedoms, but do not take the time to actually explore the causes, impacts, and nature. Many citizens have no idea how, for what, or even where some of these men and women are fighting.

This topic is very controversial, and I accept that we all come with biases for our respective beliefs and opinions. Again, what a wonderful place in which we live when this right is openly utilized.

My concern has come at a time when I believe we are, as a society, growing more desensitized to the impact of war. In fact, we may even idolize it without even realizing. Seen any movies lately? Played any video games in the last decade? The 24-hour media coverage intended just the opposite of having a mis-informed or uninformed nation. It's plausible that this coverage has, in fact, contributed to even more desensitization through exposure, rather than the lack of it. We initially quiver at the sight of such war violence. But, when this matter is constantly streamed, gamed, discussed, and normalized, we become desensitized. I am not naive enough to think I have the answer to stop mass violence, or create world peace; however, we would greatly benefit from learning all we can learn about other cultures, as well as ourselves - collectively and individually.

Let's all enjoy this day for the meaning it holds for each of us. Let's all be grateful for those who serve in our military, and communicate this gratitude to them. Let's all be mindful of the struggle these men, women, and their families face when they return from war, and when they don't. Many soldiers are trained for specific purposes. Imagine how your perception of life and sense of empathy would shift if you were placed in an environment where you must kill or be killed. When we unify, let's do so in honor of what our military and their families need from us. As a nation, when we agree to the wars we send people to fight for us, we must also agree to the needs these people have as human beings.

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