Friday, May 25, 2012

When We Remember: A Special Memorial Day Weekend Wanderings

Daniel Bader. Andrew Pokorny. Brian Penisten.

I remember them.

Memorial Day cannot pass without my remembering them. These three members of Predator Battery, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment lost their lives during our deployment to Iraq in 2003-2004.

Memorial Day is a day of remembering their sacrifice. Its deeply personal. SSG Bader was a roommate of mine at Al Asad when he was killed heading to Baghdad in a helicopter along with SPC Penisten and 15 others when it was shot down. While there were a handful of survivors as well, two that I knew as well, it was still a tragedy. They were headed home for a mid-tour break, among the first group of soldiers able to get back and visit families, friends, and children. SSG Pokorny lost his life saving one of his soldier's lives when the vehicle they were traveling in rolled over while on patrol.

Yes Memorial Day is filled with instances of the women and men who served this country and entrusted their lives to its cause. Soldiers, sailors, and airmen from the time of the Civil War until now are remembered on this day. This resource, of these men and women who are willing to give up many of their rights for the sake of others, is one of our nations most cherished.

Which is why when we remember, we must not reduce it into a political statement.

When we remember, it is to honor the fallen.

In honoring, we must ask ourselves if their lives were given for a necessary cause, a just cause.

Military action is not acceptable if it is to boost our economy. We should never accept a dollar amount to justify a body count. Those who gave their lives, that today we remember, are so much more valuable than money. We should never cheapen the sacrifices throughout the history of our country in this way.

When we remember, we must remind ourselves of what we've lost. 

Husbands. Wives. Daughters. Fathers. Sisters. Brothers. Friends.

Not only are they people we know, they are those who understood themselves in light of the larger context of humanity. They voluntarily gave up rights they had endowed to all people in the Constitution. They understood something many other Americans still do not, regardless of their beliefs. They understood selflessness. 

They understood the greater good, the need to protect life from forces that sought to enslave or exploit it. We often here that they fight for our freedom, which they do. We must ask ourselves, if what they are really fighting for is actually freedom and the just causes to which we hold ourselves. American prosperity at the expense of the w

We must learn to remember for the right reasons. We do not remember for revenge. Never should our actions be used to prevent other people from the very ideals to which our country holds. We must not turn against each other in remembering, as they are from many faiths, cultures, and classes of society. For such diversity and freedom they served.

Remembering is responsibility. 

When we remember, we must take upon ourselves the responsibility of their deaths. We should weigh very soberly whether to send more men and women into harm's way. A just war, after all, must be a last resort. Whether we are pacifist, just war theorists, or somewhere else in the spectrum, we must weigh all options moving forward before risking lives. The United States has always maintained a moral high ground in its stance in the world that we cannot allow to erode away. This would be a travesty to the remembering of our troops.

When we remember, we recognize self-sacrifice. We recognize responsibility, duty, honor and not pride, power, or profit. 

We should never become comfortable hearing about any loss of life, let alone the loss of those who serve the rest of us.

We must also remember those who while they still live, still suffer greatly. 

Whether physical or psychological, there are many more who gave their all in serving. We must not marginalize them. They must be honored, respected, and supported. Sometimes, this support may be difficult and lengthy, but again, can you put a price tag on our greatest resource? We cannot discard them as if they have been used up and no longer matter. We must embrace them in our communities, workplaces, and homes. We must learn from them, while also working to redeem them.

We must remember, and honor them. Honor them by seeking peace, justice, and equality. By not forsaking or cheapening their worth. They gave everything.

We must protect this resource as a nation and a society. Service men and women are more valuable than dollars, oil, energy, land, or power. 

From all walks of life and many cultures, they subjected themselves to serving together. They put differences aside. God forbid they would ever be turned into oppressors of the very rights spoken of in the Constitution they swore to defend.

I remember Memorial Day, because this day brings back names, faces, personalities, and memories.

I remember the stories of my elder generations and the horrors they faced. May we never send soldiers, sailors, and airmen into these conflicts casually.

I remember the names and faces of each soldier I worked with, from myriad ways of life they came from to serve together.

I remember those who struggle daily with what they experienced for our sake.

I remember my classmates from West Point that have lost their lives.

I remember Andrew Pokorny, Brian Penisten, and Daniel Bader. 

I pray that we can justly honor their sacrifice. 




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