I struggle over what to post on holidays. Except for a few instances in which I’ve settled into a comfortable, easy pattern — a silly animated gif on Thanksgiving, a Calvin and Hobbes comic on Christmas Eve — I find I come to the most significant individual days on the U.S. calendar with a measure of uncertainty. I have no wistful memories to offer up, no strident calls to value the meaning of the day within me. Usually, I punt, tapping out some bit of simple nonsense in a minimum number of words, confident no one is much likely to read it anyone, distracted as they surely are with barbecues and family gatherings.
Today, the challenge has been a little different. Memorial Day has left me wishing I had something more to say, some set of mildly profound words that express the depths of appreciation I feel for those who have laid down their lives for an enduring ideal.
I am lucky. Although I have friends and loved one who have served in the military — and seen combat — I know of no lost relative carved into a wall, a gold star by their name. I have no grave to visit.
More than ever before, the meaning on this particular holiday weighs on me. I suspect it has something to do with the cavalier buffoons who currently stand in control of the setting the global agenda of the U.S. military, blithely committed to the dangerous bluster of sending men and women headlong into harm with no plan, strategy, or sympathy as a sign of commendable strength. As if the bravery of those in uniform is so easily transferred to those soft-handed imbeciles who see their travails in superficiality as somehow akin to the terrors of the battlefield. I grieve for the lives that will be lost due to the haphazard decisions of callous men.
Simultaneously, I marvel at the courage that exists in the everyday. Make no mistake, Ricky John Best, twenty-three veteran of the U.S. Army, may have taken his last breath within the borders of a major U.S. city rather than on foreign soil, but he died defending his country.
Even now, I believe my words are feeble, my grappling insufficient. So I will concede my shortcomings by offering digital passageway to an article posted today on CNN’s website. Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling writes of his own personal remembrances, sparked by the collection he keeps of, as he puts it, “the photographs of 253 soldiers, sailors, airmen, allies and civilians who served and made the ultimate sacrifice under my command in combat.”
My words today were earnest and inadequate. I am aware of that. Hertling’s words? Those matter.