Monday, May 31, 2010

91 minutes of silence

Today is Memorial Day. Started in 1865 as Decoration Day, a day to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers , it has now become a national day of remembrance for all those who fell during war.

It's a irresistible platform for political blowhards of course and this year is no exception.

They like to swathe the war deaths in phrases like "noble service" and "saving freedom."

All that may be true, but doesn't make the soldier or sailor or Marine or airman any less dead.

4400 US troops have died in Iraq since 2003; 1087 in Afghanistan since 2001.

That means 10,000 grieving parents.
And grieving wives, husbands, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, sweethearts and friends.

Words may comfort, but they never remove the pain of that loss.

I am grateful we have men and women willing to serve our country, and willing to offer their lives as part of that service.

I pray we have leaders who recognize life is precious.
Perhaps instead of political speeches this year, they could simply stand silent for one second for each service member who has perished.

5487 seconds

91 minutes

And that's just this war.

Vietnam: 58,236 dead and 1740 missing

Korea: 36,516 dead and 8176 missing

World War 2: 416,800 dead

And no matter what your thoughts are about who's right and who's wrong in a war, let's all remember those numbers are only American deaths. It doesn't count our allies or the other side. It doesn't begin to count those who perished in The Holocaust or at Stalingrad. The grief and loss in war is uncountable.

Life is precious.
Let us all vow on this Memorial Day 2010 to spend it carefully.


Sajidah said...

Thank you for this beautiful post. It is honest and humane and connects us to the bigger picture that underlies this day - a connection that is often not made.
Thank you again.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Thank you- My dad is a Vietnam vet and my brother is active-duty Navy now. I count my blessings they are still here. I definitely remember those that aren't but when you see the numbers it's even more heart-wrenching.

Karen K. Kennedy said...


Jennifer said...

Beautiful and well said. Thank you.

Joseph L. Selby said...

My post from this morning is similar but different. Memorial Day at the Way of the Game.

Francis K7 said...

I am Canadian. I remember when I lived in Europe, the United States were so heavily criticized for their involvement in Iraq, simply mentioning you were American was enough to get snarled at.

What I did not understand then, is that politics and heart are separate. These men and women serve because they feel in their heart it is the right thing to do. They do it for their country, and their families.

Today should not be about the politics. It's about honoring those who sacrificed everything. Be it WW1, WW2, Iraq, Afghanistan... doesn't matter. Leave the politics aside. Honor the men and women who leave their parents, their spouses, and their children behind to try and do some good abroad.

Even as an outsider, I understand now. Such a day is required. You might not agree with the reasons or orders of the US government, but today is not for them.

Today, it's about the men and women of the force, and they sure as heck deserve your respect.

Leave the politics aside.

-Francis from Canada

Dawn said...

A beautiful and touching post. Amazing.

Donna Coe-Velleman said...

Thank you Janet and Francis for such beautiful, truthful words. As a wife of a Vietnam vet, daughter of a Korean vet and the niece of a WWII vet, it is touching to hear that some people have not forgotten what this day is about.

Mystery Robin said...

Beautifully said.

Genevieve Wilson said...

That was beautiful. Thank you.

Sue Repko said...

Add civilian deaths and trauma that lasts a lifetime, and you've got a wounded world. perpetually in need of a gentle touch.

Thanks for keeping it real.

Filippo said...

That was truly beautiful. Thanks for enlightening such hard and complex subject in a honorable way. I'm from Brazil, and, in the light of present circumstances, to try a more peaceful way is always better for everybody. (Not that I or the rest of Brazil necessarily agree with what our president is doing, because, although the "dialogue way" is a better way, still, everybody in here knows that he has a personal agenda). But, besides the political view of it, I felt very humble reading such numbers and remembering that many parts of the world are at war everyday(see Israel's "attack"), and our collective hearts must go to the soldiers trying to stand for something (even though the politicians sometimes use them as just numbers to be calculated in some bigger picture).
Thanks for helping us to reflect a little more about things...

Kathleen Bittner Roth said...

I am married to a German. His father was sixteen years old when he received an "invitation" from Hitler to join his army or "go to the wall" (meaning stand before a firing squad). His mother told him to do whatever he had to do to stay alive. He was sent to the Russian front where he was captured and placed in a terrible concentration camp until 1950. He was an innocent, caught up in an insane man's war. My uncle was eighteen when he lost his life fighting someone like my father-in-law. He was buried in Flanders Field in France one month before WWII ended. Thank you for mentioning there was grief and loss on all sides. Your honoring of these innocents is poignant.

Stephanie Barr said...


The willingness to defend our country should be matched with an unwillingness to use our brave youth except in the most dire need.

War is a horrible painful thing for all concerned. I long for the day when we heed MacArthur's words:

"I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes."
-Douglas MacArthur

Anne-Marie said...

Beautiful, Janet. I have nothing but respect for all the members of the Armed Forces of your country and mine for the sacrifices they make. May all the soldiers currently fighting abroad come home safe to their loved ones.


Jean said...

Thank you, Janet. 91 minutes of silence and reflection to honor those Americans who have died in the current wars is not too much to ask.

It doesn't begin to touch those who have served in other conflicts, for our Allies, and our enemies -- and the civilian victims as well.

I am proud to have served this country for 28 years, and I'm thankful to be retired from active duty. Each person deserves a country he or she can love and call home. I happen to believe USA is best, but I hope each citizen believes that about his or her respective country.

Tawna Fenske said...

This is beautiful and made me cry.

I'll begin my 91 minutes right now.


Christina Lee said...

WOW. Just... wow. So very lovely!

Tamara said...

Very well put.

Bree D said...

Thank you.

Terri said...

Amen . . . I am proud to be have a heartfelt patriotism that gets misty eyed when the local National Guard unit marches in the town parade. Bless them all and keep them safe until they come home.

CKHB said...

I linked to this in my blog. THANK YOU.

February Grace said...

My grandfather was a WWII vet.

About seven years ago, the family who bought my great grandparent's home was renovating the attic and they found letters from my grandfather to my grandmother, written overseas during WWII, under the floorboards.

They tracked down my grandmother and returned them- and she treasured them in what would turn out to be the last year of her life. The effect of these letters on me has been profound.

Holding the crumbling pages in my hands, reading how never complained, reassured her that he loved her faithfully only longed to come home, (he was gone almost four years) made it all so real to me just how much is sacrificed by soldiers and their families for our freedom.

A beautiful post. Thank you for it and thank you to our service men and women.

Bernita said...

Two of mine wear the uniform of their country. Between them they have been deployed seven times outre-mer...
I don't think I have to say anything more.