“Save big on Memorial Day!”
“Thank a Veteran this Memorial Day!”
I’m not the first person, nor will I be the last, to point out the reason we have Memorial Day. It isn’t about barbecues or big deals. Nor is it about thanking the person with Veterans plates on their truck or marching in their old uniform.
It is about honoring those who died in service to their nation.
With ever-decreasing percentages of the population serving in uniform, the sense of distinction between our martial holidays becomes lost. Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, and Memorial Day each have a vague military gloss, thus they become about thanking veterans and the troops on the way to a long weekend.
At the same time, Americans are growing more comfortable with the exercise of military power globally — as long as it does not require them to serve.
This so-called civil-military divide will become one of the major challenges for our nation going forward. When public opinion on the use of force is divorced from the direct consequences thereof, it creates the potential for misadventure. Those decisions can, unfortunately, give us more names to honor on Memorial Day.
It is something to be aware of as we decide upon our next commander-in-chief. None of the candidates remaining has ever served their nation under arms. Nor have the candidates had children don the uniform and know what it means to go into harm’s way. This same story holds true for Congress; we are reaching historic lows in the number of veterans serving in national elected office. While they may be intelligent or fine individuals, they have no direct sense of deployment or a service-member’s ethos.
That doesn’t stop candidates from trying to claim a military mantle and show their grit. For example, Hillary Clinton famously invented a story about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire to prove her toughness. In her telling, she only went because it was too dangerous for President Clinton to go. Meanwhile, Donald Trump tells people that being in an IED-attack is just a “little ride” and that attending a military prep school provided him more military training than most people in the military.
And Bernie Sanders? He was jaunting off to Nicaragua in the 1980s to stand in solidarity with crowds chanting “here, there, and everywhere, the Yankee will die.”
None of these candidates is perfect, and this weekend isn’t about them. Yet, as voters, since we know they do not have military experience, let’s try and ensure the victor remembers the reason we have a Memorial Day. It is for these men and women:
Andrews. Arredondo. Aubin. Balduf. Barron. Bean. Beaulieu. Bernard. Brainard. Brochu. Bruns. Buxbaum. Cash. Cassavant. Cherry. Ciraso. Clukey. Coffin. Coutu. Cunningham. Damon. Dan. Dore. Dostie. Dostie. Emery. Feeks. Frank. Garver. Gelineau. Golding. Goyet. Halvorsen. Harris. Hasenflu. Heidtman. Henderson. Holmes. Horrigan. House. Humble. Hutchins. Jackson. Jones. Keating. Kelly. Kennedy. Kennie. Krik. Koelsch. Krueger. Leigh. Libby. Little. Love. Lowery. Lucas. McDonald. McLain. McMillin. Merchant. Olmsted. Parker. Pelotte. Picard. Poulin. Robertson. Rosa. Rose. Ross. Roukey. Roy. Roy. Russell. Schlegel. Schneider. Severance. Shaw. Silk. Slack. Small. Small. Smith. Smith. Springer. Springman. Swarthworth. Swiger. Taylor. Thibedeau. Tranchemontagne. Veverka. Wilson. Wing. Zimmerman.
These are the last names of the 95 Mainers who have died in service to the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. They gave everything to allow ad-makers to advertise their great deals, to give you an extra day off of work and hold a cookout with friends and family. They gave up their ability to do those things to preserve yours. And it wasn’t because they were Democrats or Republicans; it was because they were Americans.
Quite simply, Memorial Day is their day. It is a meager gift we offer back to them for what they sacrificed, and the very least we can do with that meager gift is honor it.
So to those 95 men and women, and the families they left behind: thank you. That is all there is to say.