Most of my readers live in the U.S., but some do not. Regardless of nationality, remembering those who have sacrificed their lives in service of their country, as Americans do on Memorial Day, is something we share across borders and time. This weekend we remember.
On these days we don’t argue about the value of one battle or one war. We recognize that good young men and women enter service, do a job, and die and are wounded for performing that service. We thank them and remember them for their sacrifice.
I remember my father and and father-in-law, United States Marines, members of The Greatest Generation, who saved the world in its darkest hour. I remember those of my generation who were drafted into Viet Nam and did not come home. I remember Dmitri del Castillo, my son’s friend growing up in Houston, graduate of West Point, killed in Afghanistan last year.
I worry that our students are too remote from war. Americans have deferred the financial cost of war to the future, rather than shouldering that burden as did our parents who rationed and grew vegetables in small gardens to support the war effort. Think about the flattened trajectory of the consciousness of war in the minds of high school students from WW II to Viet Nam to today. In 70 years war, and the cost in human suffering, has become a sideline issue to the rising generation. That is not good. As educators we share in the blame. Perhaps we are afraid to focus on war because we risk being viewed as taking a political position. That is wrong and cowardly. War is not political; it is a big, bad thing that is sometimes necessary, and we should encourage our students to directly and passionately engage in the discussion of big, bad things.
Presbyterian Day School in Memphis is offering an online course to Middle School students entitled “Teaching History Through Controversy”, starting with the Spanish American War and following through to Iraq and Afghanistan. Bravo, PDS. Last fall I connected my school with the local office of the Wounded Warrior Project to offer walk-on coaching spots to wounded soldiers in rehab. Check what this has meant to one such veteran and the value he brought to our school. What better way to share in both the pain of a lost limb in a far off land, and the resiliency and courage to move on in life?
Let’s commit to honor those who have sacrificed in all of our countries by doing a better job of helping our students take the time to care about the really important stuff.
Happy Memorial Day to all, and thanks to those who have served and sacrificed.