Memorial Day. I firmly believe all the men and women who died in the service of the United States Armed Forces deserve far more than our meager remembrance on Memorial Day. They and their families have sacrificed far more than will ever be asked of most of us. Anything we offer seems so inadequate in comparison.
Death. Memorial Day reminds us that most who died in the service of the United States Armed Forces died before they ever really had the opportunity to live. Men and women just starting their adult lives were abruptly disrupted in the complexity and chaos of war and causes of war. There’s a certain senselessness about war, but we want to understand. We need to understand. We need the affirmation that their life made a difference in the grand scheme of violence.
Life. Veteran Alex Horton wrote a thoughtful blog post in the New York Times, Honoring the Exchange of Life for Life. He wrote:
Memorial Day for those of us who have fought is not simply a broad recognition of the sacrifices rendered by the dead, but an understanding of the exchange of life for life.
The challenge for those who survive is the “the chance to fulfill a life they willingly gave up.”
Maybe the rest of us can heed Horton’s exhortation to also honor the exchange of life for life, not just on Memorial Day, but everyday. Something needs to shake us from the path of war and violence. Instead of exchanging life for life, can we find a way to entrust life with life? The best way to honor those who have exchanged life for life is to find a solution so no one has to ever make that choice in the future … and those left behind don’t have to search for meaning to make sense of it all.