Those we honor on Memorial Day struggled to save their comrades. Nations who choose to settle conflicts with war have a ways to catch up where honor is concerned.
/By Woody Woodruff/ We know why we fight. Why we fought, why we still (alas) fight.
Once you are on the ground, you fight for the lives of your comrades because you know they are fighting for the same thing – getting home alive. There are times when that takes extraordinary courage, honored today by uniformed buddies and civilians alike. Other times, it takes informed smarts.
Nations were born out of languages and common cultures and their borders framed as much by rivers and mountains as by difference. But nations became competitors in the modern era – for resources, for so-called “lebensraum,” finally for dominance. Nations buy uniforms and guns but seldom the loyalty of the people who serve, whether drafted or (often) steered into uniform by poverty and lack of opportunity at home. That loyalty, first and foremost, is still given to their comrades.
Many of the people whom we honor today died or suffered so that their comrades could live and thrive. That honor is fitting. The nations who set wars in motion have a long way to go to gain that kind of honor – a distance that they must, in most cases, cover on the road to a just peace among nations.
That nations may be led by bad people who may set them on the path of war is undeniable. We have more reason to understand that here in the US today than we have for many decades. But that does not mean that nations should step back from the struggle for peace. Any more than it diminishes the great honor we owe to those who died and suffered so that their comrades could go home and thrive, and work for peace, while nations find their way to doing the right thing at last.
Woody Woodruff is blog moderator for Progressive Maryland and a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War since 1970.