It's Memorial Day weekend, and as I scan Facebook and Twitter, I see many references to what this weekend means for so many people. Overwhelmingly it's about remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice - their very lives - for some cause. This is a time for us as a country to give that collective thank you to all those men - and women - who gave their lives.
But when I look at the wars the United States has engaged in, particularly in the last 100+ years, I find that there are more instances when those lives were sacrificed for something that really was not quite justified. We look at the 2003 Iraq war now with jaded vision, thinking that we should have not gone in there after all. We view our longest active war - in Afghanistan - almost to the point that we really don't think about it anymore. The Vietnam War was hugely unpopular, and only today do we truly thank those men and women for their service - perhaps out of guilt more than gratitude. Korea is called "The Forgotten War", and technically, it's not over. And the United States was drawn into WWI in Europe, and in doing so, ended that war quickly. So, which war - to me - made the difference?
Without any doubt, it was WWII.
While we went into Iraq based on faulty or misrepresented intelligence, there was absolutely no misrepresentation as to our reasons to go into WWII. Granted, there are historical revisionists and conspiracy theorists who will say that Roosevelt KNEW the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor, and he allowed that in order to get the USA into the conflict. Perhaps, but there is no concrete evidence to suggest and confirm that he was complicit in that. But even if he WERE complicit, who could blame him?
Europe was under the domination of a regime that eliminated the voices of dissention. It was controlled by a set of men bent on complete European, Russian, African and middle-eastern domination - a new "Empire". They had exterminated millions of Jews. The only country standing up to them was the United Kingdom - England mainly. Adolf Hitler was a dictator of the highest degree, and his goals, his hatred, his twisted view of things, made it necessary for the United States to intervene there. Ironically, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the USA declared war ONLY on Japan. Due to their alliance with Germany, Germany declared war on the USA. Had they not, things could have been vastly different. What would have this world become if Germany had prevailed?
And let's look at Japan. At that time, Japan was seeking domination of the western Pacific, China and southeast Asia, primarily for raw materials. But they too saw themselves as an Empire, and wished to control these areas under brutal military rule. There was a viciousness in the common Japanese soldier, something that our Army, Marines and Navy found out quite quickly after the fall of the US-held Philippines and the tragic "March to Bataan". Our battles in the southwest Pacific on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa showed us that we were fighting a different type of soldier with a different view of battle. It was horrible. And when it was done, our troops had difficulty in adjusting. But they were united in understanding the reason for fighting the Imperial troops of Japan. And what would the Pacific be like now if Japan had won? In a sense, Japan did, since we buy Japanese cars and for years, the best audio and televisions came from Japan.
So on this Memorial Day, yes, we honor all those - even from unpopular wars - who gave their lives. But I particularly wish to remember and honor those who fought in a war that literally saved the world.