Memorial Day is not just a day to find great sales at Home Depot! It is a day on which those who died in active military service are remembered, traditionally observed on May 30 but now officially observed on the last Monday in May.
I usually observe it with tears,
This year I can especially remember the people, mostly young men, who were in active military service during World War I. I just returned from Europe where, on a beautiful spring day, after cruising the back roads through the lush landscape of Northern France, Gwen and I made a pit stop at Verdun. We did not know there was such a beautiful museum dedicated to the long battle for the strategic territory between Germany and France.
Everyone seems to agree that World War I was one of the most useless wars ever. The curators of the collection we saw made sure we got that message.
The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was more than 38 million: there were over 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.
The total number of deaths includes about 11 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians. The Triple Entente (also known as the Allies) lost about 6 million military personnel while the Central Powers lost about 4 million. At least 2 million died from diseases and 6 million went missing, presumed dead. Disease, including the 1918 flu pandemic and deaths while held as prisoners of war, caused about one third of total military deaths for all belligerents.
Let’s have some tears this weekend. Have a burger. Say you need to visit the facilities. Close the door and have a good cry.
The Verdun museum demonstrated, lest I forget, that the one-percent of the day got themselves into a ridiculous war, called upon the youth of their countries the serve the Fatherland, and let them die. As exhibit captions noted, once there, the soldiers knew it was a foolish, hopeless enterprise, but they had to defend their fellow soldiers. The war took on a life of its own, with little rationale except that it was being fought.
We have to note that our immense militaries, led by people like Trump, Putin and Duterte are bloated preparations longing for release. Trump berated NATO members this week for not spending at least 2% of their national income for military build up. No doubt millions more civilians will soon be forced to flee conflict, while their sons are convinced that blowing up others or themselves solves problems. It is happening in Syria, the Central African Republic and the the southern Philippines right now.
Make us peacemakers, Lord. Extract some tears from our hardened, apathetic hearts this weekend.