With November 11 approaching and knowing that at least one of my colleagues has a holiday on Monday, my thoughts turned to the occasion of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that marked the end of World War I. I wonder if perhaps we should do even more to celebrate the end of wars, at least the 7 or 8 that I recall in my own lifetime. I recall a number of people, including MLK, Jr. saying that if we want peace we should work for justice.
Laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington National Cemetery is a symbolic but meaningful gesture as it is a visual reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by so many on our behalf so that we can continue to live in a country that continues to assert its freedoms upon which it was founded. What are we to make of the most recent 4400 deaths and 32,000 wounded in Iraq, the 2000 deaths and 18,000 wounded in Afghanistan? How do we honor those lives?
Our nephew has been deployed to Afghanistan twice and is probably going back a third time to help clean it all up as he rides in one of those advance mine-sweepers that look for APD’s (Anti-Personnel Device) or an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). Just this past Thursday, 20 people were killed by such devices in Afghanistan. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/insurgents-kill-8-afghan-policemen-soldiers-in-separate-attacks/2012/11/08/0fa68fea-296d-11e2-aaa5-ac786110c486_story.html) When will it end and what can be done to stop the mayhem and man’s inhumanity to his own kind? We must truly be one of the few species who set about intentionally to destroy ourselves.
As an 8-year old child, I was convinced that the end of World War II was the end of all world wars and then discovered later how absolutely wrong I was. I felt deceived, betrayed and misled. I wondered then what the veterans thought and felt that I knew, those who had returned alive and who had watched their friends die in battle. Had they all fought in vain to end a war only to see it all start up again too soon afterwards?
Here is the list of those in which we have been involved and I won’t even try to enumerate the cost. Let’s just agree that it’s simply way too much and you have to love some of the names, even calling the Korean conflict at one point a police action! And then wars became Operations?
For the US: Korean War (1950-1953); Vietnam War (1961-1975):
1. Operation Urgent Fury-Grenada (1983)
2. Operation Just Cause-Panama (1989)
3. Operaton Desert Storm-Iraq (January and Febuary 1991)
4. Operation Restore Hope-Somalia (1993)
5. Operations in Europe-Bosnia (1990’s)
6. Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan (2001-present)
7. Operation Iraqi Freedom-Iraq (2003-present)
Find a way to pause on Sunday and give thanks, perhaps with a moment of silence at 11 AM and remember those who have served and sacrificed. And maybe do it on Monday too! Lest we forget.