Remembrance Day

A decade ago, on this day, at this time, I was in London wearing a paper poppy and listening to a British military band play Elgar outside Westminster Palace. There was some anti-American sentiment abounding, not specifically at that time, but within the general culture for sure. It was a year past 9/11, and America was well into continuing an unceasing war, searching for weapons of mass destruction and strong-arming other international powers to support the disarmament of Iraq.

We were living in a primarily Lebanese neighborhood. It was a very interesting time.

There is always something that reminds me of those months in England. Those months were attitude-shifting, personality molding.  And while we primarily had a lot of fun and did very little studying, there was still a tremendous observance of a different way of life, different views, and different priorities, coupled with the obvious, overwhelming, universal similarities. People are people, wherever you go.

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Kanas City is home to the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, which of course has scheduled events and ceremonies today to commemorate the service done for this country, and in the world.

While I hold the opinion that the United States is over-militarized, that doesn’t go so far as to say that a military presence is unwarranted, unappreciated, and unobserved. There are many who have served to provide for their families, to earn a college degree, to better themselves and their country, or for pure patriotism. And who’s to say that a wish to better one’s self and one’s family isn’t the purest form of patriotism there is?

But these same men and women, who have given extraordinary measures, completed rigorous training and performed less-than enviable tasks, are too often not supported once they’ve left service. This is deplorable.

There is an ever-growing disconnect between civilians and service people in this country. With the draft dispersed, for now, not every generation of every family has someone in the military and it’s too easy to disregard the service these men and women have given.

There is a disconnect, too, with the needs and concerns of those in other countries.

I reviewed a dance group out of Haiti the other night. They were part of a campaign to promote diplomacy by touring performing arts groups from Haiti, Indonesia and Pakistan through the United States. The Haitian people, whose history has been fraught with the struggle for prosperous, safe, and healthy living conditions, are still combating the after-effects of the earthquake in 2010. The US military, along with many other nations and various relief groups, descended on Haiti to help staunch the flow of tragedy. Yet the tragedy is ongoing for so many, still displaced, still struggling. It is important to remember that.

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My grandfather was in the Army Corps of Engineers during WWII. According to letters, they were the first to arrive, to prepare some semblance of infrastructure for the Marines to land. In a box, tucked away, are photographs of palm trees and beaches and bodies piled and twisted, contorted, dead. It is not any easy thing to be in the military, even non-combatant, even on a pacific island paradise.

My son is named for my grandfather. It is difficult for me to imagine a world in which I could send my child off to war. I’m not comfortable with him playing with guns.

I’m not sure I could be a strong enough mother; I can’t even continue that train of thought without crying.

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Sir Terry Pratchett often writes of war and peace and diplomacy in his novels. In one scene of Thud, a character tells about his father taking him to a storied battlefield and twacking him in the back of the head, saying “Remember.” His father doesn’t tell him what to remember, doesn’t tell him how to remember. He just relates, very firmly and simply, that the remembrance is the thing.

The remembrance is the thing. We must remember what has happened, why it happened, and how it happened. And make sure that certain things never happen again.

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