It is Memorial Day in the United States, a national day of remembrance for those who have fallen in the nation’s wars. That remembrance is a proper thing owed to millions of brave men and women and their survivors. I am quickly angered when the day is misappropriated for patriotic bluster. My country has not fought a necessary war since the Second World War. Yet tens of thousands have died on foreign battlefields since 1945. One can argue that the Korean War seemed essential in 1950, and perhaps it was. But Vietnam? Panama? Grenada? Somalia? Afghanistan? The Persian Gulf? I find it hard to see those as anything other than exceedingly costly exercises in folly and political cynicism.
But blame for that does not reside with the soldiers. They deserve something from us, and the least we can do is give a moment to commemorate not only those who fell, but those who survived, forever scarred by a horror like none other. My grandfather was a combat veteran of the First World War. Three of my uncles fought in the Second World War. A first cousin fought in Vietnam, and he did not come home. For all of them and the other millions, only one thing need be said: We remember you.