In small towns and big cities across the U.S., tribute was paid this weekend to the men and women who died serving our country. Such services routinely draw aging veterans who come to pay their respects to those whom they served alongside. World War II, Vietnam, Korea. These are the conflicts most often remembered.
Today, the nation is mired in a years-long battle for which the military has become dependent on a different kind of soldier. The men and women of the Reserve forces are not career officers, but have bravely and willingly agreed to risk their lives at any given moment. They are often asked to serve multiple and lengthy deployments that pull them from the families and jobs at home where, again, they could easily be someone’s hero. They are men and women of various ages, backgrounds and obligations who have kept up with their training over weekends and annual retreats. They have teenage children and mortgage payments and college funds. They have sweethearts and plans for the future.
Some joined when they were struck by a sudden sense of purpose on a September day, and others have belonged for decades.
This day, of course, is set aside to remember the soldiers who have died. In the meantime, we can care for the living. Parents who must shoulder a greater burden and children who are missing a guardian deserve our attention. Though the war may be on the other side of the globe, there are daily struggles to be waged on the home front as well. It is especially important for neighbors, communities and governments who are dependent on the courage of others that we pitch in when we can. A helping hand can be as simple as an afternoon of baby-sitting.
Memorial Day services look much the same across the United States, and have for some time. Here in Forest Park, a ceremony participant remarked on what he saw as a sparse crowd. In the years to come we hope – and suspect – that this might change as the impact of an overseas conflict is made more immediate by the sporadic absence of loved ones.