Over the last several weeks, this publication has reported and commented on a number of efforts on the part of local residents to help those impacted by the war in Ukraine. Another Ukraine-specific event is planned for next week, when a concert will be held at First Congregational Church, highlighting music that has emanated from that country.
The war, unfortunately, continues. Lives are being lost. Families are being displaced. As each day passes, and each week goes by, more damage is done to that country and, whenever hostilities finally do cease, the destruction caused will require years to repair.
It’s a reminder to Americans that the world has not entered into anything resembling post-war history. In fact, it was just recently that the U.S. officially ended its stay in Afghanistan, more than two decades after first entering into combat in that country in response to the attacks on 9/11.
If there seems to be one unavoidable truth, it’s that each new generation will face new conflicts. Soldiers will be sent off to war, sometimes for noble causes, sometimes for selfish, even inhumane, purposes, but the wars rage on.
It’s a reality we should never forget, especially as we approach Memorial Day. Each year, we honor more and more men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of serving and protecting our country because the need for brave men and women never ends. And, thankfully, the fire that burns inside some Americans to serve is never fully extinguished.
Those in uniform today are pledging their lives to protecting America, knowing full well that hostilities can break out at a moment’s notice, forcing them into active service in a land far away, in situations that put their lives in jeopardy. As the invasion in Ukraine shows us, peace is never guaranteed and bravery in the face of an enemy is always required.
As is pointed out at this time every year, Memorial Day asks us to honor those no longer with us. It asks us to remember those who went to war knowing they might not return, yet did so anyway.
In a recent conversation with The Herald, former Marine Dennis Mannion spoke of how he views the Vietnam War Memorial Wall as a sort of somber yearbook. He pointed out that, when one flips through an old yearbook, it feels like looking back at a moment when time stopped — the faces, the hairstyles, the wardrobe choices, all frozen forever.
The Wall, Mannion said, is similar. For the men and women whose names are on it, time stopped. There was no history past the date under which their name is listed. There was no future for them beyond that moment.
That’s what Memorial Day is about. It reminds us all that, for thousands of fellow Americans, their futures ended on a battlefield or in a war zone, fighting to protect a free future for the rest of us. They gave up their everything for us to continue pursuing the lives we desire.
Such sacrifices continue to be made. Young men and women are still asked to protect America in a variety of ways, in a variety of places, all around the world. And as each year passes, the number of names on walls and monuments and memorials grow. The number of men and women to whom we owe our gratitude and our reverence increases.
Perhaps one day, we will no longer have to continue adding names to the list of remembrances observed on Memorial Day. Perhaps one day, true peace will be achieved and there will be no more conflicts. But, unfortunately, as Ukraine reminds us, that day has not arrived.
So, on Monday, let us once again honor and remember those who gave their lives. And let us also not forget those who continue to serve despite knowing that, one day, they could join the list of fallen heroes.