Remembering Differently: Memorial Day

If my Facebook newsfeed is any indication, Americans do not approach Memorial Day in a uniform way. Some Americans barbecue, party, and celebrate their day off work while others lament the national disconnect with “what the holiday is all about.”

So there’s these two sides of the conversation:  patriotic people actively remembering the soldiers who died for American freedom and those simply enjoying it without deference.

Not every response falls into one of these two categories, however, some choose to remember differently. Here are a few of the things they’re saying this weekend.

Ed Cyzewski:

“This Memorial Day I’m remembering the non-combatants who have suffered the effects of war without firing a shot. The husbands, wives, children, and parents of soldiers have a difficult and critical task in supporting their loved ones as they return from combat and reenter civilian life. As our soldiers struggle with PTSD, wounds, and illnesses that are linked to our own bombs, the families are the ones who provide the support they desperately need. The burdens that families bear alongside our soldiers remind us that war comes with a heavy, heavy cost.”

Joey Aszterbaum:

“I think we should speak the truth about what warriors do. When I hear the words “thank you for your service” or “sacrifice”, what I hear are civilians who don’t want to face the cold truth of being in the military: the service they perform is to be willing to kill other people. General Patton said it pretty well when he said that you don’t win a war by dying for your country, but by making the other poor bastard die for his country first. Job number one for warriors is, through training, to overcome their natural reluctance to kill. Then, to protect the guy next to them. Through euphemism and glamorizing, I think we actually fail to honor the men and women who come home broken in body or mind because they do our killing for us.

“Support the troops”, to me, means to make sure they get housing, jobs, and medical care when they return home. It means that we speak truthfully about the deadly consequences of policy, and how the rest of the people in a nation (particularly ours) don’t make much sacrifice at all when it comes to people doing our war for us.

It also means working towards the end of war. Using diplomacy, peace, and truthful speech to counteract the rule of the powerful, the mob, or the ruthless in our own midst. It means taking seriously the failure of war to fix things rather than break them. It means bringing warriors back home, and turning tanks and drones into preschools and playgrounds.

I don’t celebrate national holidays (“holy days”). But I will definitely remember on Memorial Day my own benefit from the death of warriors and victims. I will remember the hard cost of war to body and spirit. And I will remember that to support or love warriors doesn’t mean to valorize policy that uses them to do a horrible, dirty business.”

Jeff (coming addition to an irenicon):

“I am pretty sure Memorial Day is not about celebrating America. It’s about remembering those that died many times holding ideals higher than those that signed the papers to send them.

Blessed are those who mourn, may you find comfort.”


Regardless of your perspective, let us all remember the very human cost of warfare and honor the fallen by creating a world free from its demands.

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Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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