On This Memorial Day

On This Memorial Day

 

Yang2020

Friend — 
Happy Memorial Day!  I hope you are enjoying a wonderful day with loved ones and family.
Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971, though it has been celebrated in some form since the 1860s.  Today, many Americans—especially those who have not experienced personal loss in this arena—have a natural inclination not to look too closely when it comes to the results of the wars we are fighting or have fought.  We are quick with a, “Thank you for your service.”  We are slow to think deeply about what it means that less than one percent of our population serves, and that even within our 50 states, there is a marked difference in enlistment rates, and that 25% of our active duty members and veterans show signs of PTSD and other mental health issues.
To this end, I asked a member of my staff who is a veteran what he would ask of Americans on this Memorial Day.  He recommended an essay that struck a chord with me—Phil Klay’s The Warrior at the Mall.  The essence of Mr. Klay’s argument is that, as a result of the same minority of Americans spending decades at war while an overwhelming majority carries on with their lives as if nothing is amiss, a chasm has opened up between civilians and veterans.  This chasm must be bridged, or, as Mr. Klay says:
“We risk our country slipping further into the practice of a fraudulent form of American patriotism, where ‘soldiers are sacred,’ the work of actual soldiering is ignored and the pageantry of military worship sucks energy away from the obligations of citizenship.”
Mr. Klay also points out