Since last fall, 38 military members have died as a result of the mobilization against terrorism in Afghanistan. Knowing that al-Qaida remains a threat, it is undeniable that the dismantling of the regime in Afghanistan has had a positive effect in curbing terrorism, though the job is unfinished. We cannot help but be humbled in honoring those who have died in this recent fighting.
But Memorial Day is not just for the most recent casualties of war and not just for casualties of war. It is for all who have passed from this world after having served this country in the armed forces.
Why have a special day just for those who have died and served in the armed forces? Because serving in the armed forces is a defining period in the life of a soldier, Marine, airman or sailor.
We all deplore war <> that is, all but the foolish or the ill-disposed. But those who provide the service of ultimately offering their lives in defense of the rest of us deserve a special status. That status should not be erased by the end of life, whether long or short. Remembering those who put their lives at stake helps to teach us the value of life, the value of defending our lives, the value of preserving our ways of life. Without such observance, we are all just passing through. Without recognizing loss, we cannot appreciate gain.
How do we honor those who have served us?
Here is one way. The idea of a world without war, without the need for armed forces, is a foreign one on this planet. But we should never give up the hope that someday such an achievement can come to pass. Striving for that day would honor those who expended periods of their lives and at times their lives in the armed forces. What better honor is there than to know that those who appreciated sacrifice put their efforts into a world in which those sacrifices are no longer needed by their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren?
A world of lasting peace is far, far away. It seems naive to expect it could occur in our lifetimes. The thought is an overwhelming one given the events of Sept. 11, those in the Mideast and those elsewhere in this world.
But we know of great achievements the human race has accomplished by joining efforts and working a brick at a time. Peace can be built the same way. We may never see ourselves the end of armed conflict and humans may never totally achieve world peace. But those who have protected us when the need for armed forces has arisen deserve to have their memories honored by a steadfast and continuing effort.