Memorial Day — 2013

It’s easy to forget. We get up each morning to peace. I’m looking out my window now at the flowers, and birds, and walkers strolling by. They all look so free. It is all so easy.

It goes without saying that all living creatures desire freedom. In the US, freedom comes as a default; it’s taken for granted.

Yesterday, my wife and some friends went to protest something they didn’t agree with. They assembled without fear. I write opinion here, without fear.

Increasingly so, with the years, I have come to think more about the young people who give so much to provide us with all this freedom.

At about the same time my wife was assembling to exercise her freedom of speech, I was out riding with friends. We came across a young man on a bike with an Army kit. His face looked so young. Muscular and tall, I didn’t think he would stay with our group when the road turned up. But at the top of the first climb, I looked back and there was the young face. We didn’t say much; it was one of those rides where the pedaling was enough. (Those are the best rides.)

This morning I got to thinking of that young man. Will he be in a firefight in some mountain range in Afghanistan next week? Has he already?

We amble about in this country so easily, so free. Most of us do good work in our daily lives. We are doctors, teachers, businessmen and the like. Though we do a lot of good, it’s another thing altogether to give your life for your country.

That is something: Young people go off to serve their country and some (too many) actually give their life.

I remember how proud I was last year at a medical meeting in Europe. My badge said, John Mandrola, MD — United States of America. I kept that badge. I look at it often.

The Americans who have given their life so that all of us can be proud and free are surely worthy of our thoughts today and every day.


8 replies on “Memorial Day — 2013”

We honor all who have fought and sacrificed in defense of freedom and liberty. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States armed services. It originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. Since then Memorial Day has been extended to honor all Americans who have died in military service.
It is a special day in America where we pause to honor fellow Americans who have died in the service of their Country. Our celebration of the lives of Americans who died in the service of their Country should not be construed as disrespect for the brave men and women of allies who served and died defending liberty side by side with Americans. We honor their sacrifice as well.
John, it was a wonderful article that perfectly defines how Americans feel about Memorial Day.

I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with my friends on Facebook…once again you’ve written something that says out loud what was in the back of my head, but have never managed to express on paper.

A very nice tribute, Dr. John M. And, as we all now say, automatically, “thank you for your service” to that young man riding with you. We do that sincerely.

But please don’t conflate our involvement in Afghanistan (except the very first few months that ended in a victory of sorts over the parties that trained there for Sept. 11) or, for sure, in Iraq, with preserving the freedoms we cherish. We ended up squandering many of our best young people, $trillions (yes, that’s the lifecycle costs, with a T), relationships with allies and countless other countries, and ended the lives of tens of thousands (some say hundreds of thou) of innocents–for what?

The Iraqis kicked us out in the end and are thoroughly aligned with Iran and under Iran’s strong influence. We now pay bales of cash monthly to the sheikhs in Anbar Province who slaughtered a thousand Marines over a few years. In Afghanistan, we have been working from the start for a corrupt man who hates us and demeans us every chance he can–and the Afghanistan affair is not heading in a good direction.
So, let’s not connect our great service people with some of the gamey, incompetently led, military missions we conduct by choice or prolong for domestic political reasons. Our military does a lot in your name and mine that should make us very uncomfortable, and it has little to do, much of the time, with “keeping us safe.” Rather, it does the opposite, but that’s not the fault of those who serve, but rather of the politicians we elect. As de Tocqueville once wrote: we get the kind of government we deserve.

Note: I am quite comfortable with all the things you publish on your blog that are apart from straight medical subjects. One of your strengths is putting medicine in an appropriately large contextual framework. Your Memorial Day post is fine. If my reply is “too political” to publish, I’ll understand. But I do want you to read it. Thanks

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