It's Memorial Day in the US: unofficially the (non-astronomical) start of summer and officially a day to remember US soldiers who have died in wars.
My family is swarming with active and retired soldiers and sailors, some of whom have spent substantial time in war zones, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, and several of my friends are married to military personnel. I have also had quite a few soldier-students in my classes in recent years. I can spend Memorial Day being grateful that not one has been lost.
I once asked an uncle, a retired Marine, what he thought about remembering people other than soldiers on Memorial Day. That is, people who have died in war -- any people and any war -- or Americans who have died in other service to the country. What about policemen and firemen? What about children in war zones? No, he did not think that was appropriate. Only US military personnel should be considered. That is what the holiday is for and it does soldiers a dishonor to include others.
I disagree. The only people I personally have known who died in war were those caught in the fighting in a certain troubled African country where I lived for a time as a child. These were my friends and neighbors. I am not in any danger of forgetting them, and I am not dishonoring anyone else by remembering them today of all days.
For many people this day is just a holiday, totally detached from its original intent. I must admit that for me it is mostly just part of a 3-day weekend as well. My daughter doesn't have school, so we sleep in a bit, hang around, admire the cats, maybe bake something strange but festive, and then I go to campus to work in my nice quiet office for a while. Maybe I will even clean a particularly cluttered corner of my office; something I've been meaning to do since last summer, or maybe the one before that.
But it is Memorial Day, a day for memories of family, friends, soldiers, sailors -- even people we never met but who are somehow important to us.
If you take time on this Memorial Day to remember important people in your life other than close family members or friends, how many of these people were your teachers, colleagues, mentors, or students?
11 years ago