Over the centuries countries and civilizations have erected hundreds of war memorials. To either glorify victories (Arc de Triomphe in Paris) or remembered the fallen (Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC) these memorials seem as ubiquitous as the human experience.
On our trip around the world we saw discrete memorials to fallen soldiers by the side of the road in Georgia, huge memorials to those lost in war in India and even modern graffiti marking for all eternity a life lost due to conflict. Some poignant, others grandiose, the memorials and monuments all commemorate and celebrate the lives of those who have given it all for their country.
Many countries take a day to commemorate these lives; in the U.S, we observe the last Monday of May as Memorial Day. There are parades, bar-b-ques, mattress and car sales, and for all the flag waving and ketchup pouring you’d hardly know at all that this holiday is a solemn one. As a child I looked forward to the holiday as a three day weekend and my memories are of parades full of high-school bands, scouts, civic leaders and older war veterans. As time goes on, I realize that some of those veterans are now my age, and many who have died in our recent conflicts are younger than I. Despite the fact that I have several family members in the military, I have been fortunate enough never to have lost a love one to war. I had no experience to draw on until this year.
Last summer in Berlin we met an Iraqi girl who had fled her homeland since the fall of Saddam. Almost immediately I was put in a position to defend the actions of my country. Almost immediately the military situation that had been flickering on the TV for so many years became tangible and real. It was real. It is real.
Whether you are in the U.S. or not today, take a second to consider the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives to war.
They are not a thing of the past, they are very real.