I've been marching in or watching Memorial Day
parades since I was a Girl Scout Brownie, except when I was living
abroad or ailing.
This year my ankle was ailing, so I didn't go. I feel bad about that,
especially with the war in Iraq adding people who need to be remembered
every day. I did display the flag, read the relevant newspaper
editorials and features, and watched the Memorial Day concert on
The concert isn't like the Boston Pops on the Fourth of July -- no
masses of people singing and waving flags, no fireworks. This year it
was very sad, with its "reach out to wounded soldiers" theme. Two actors
played the roles of a soldier and his wife, telling their story, which
included the fact that after he was wounded he was discharged and
stopped receiving many benefits while they struggled to pay his bills.
I spent the afternoon in my hammock, reading and napping, and listening
to Avi Nelson on WRKO.
Avi asked veterans to call in. Some were feeling unappreciated by their
country after their service. One wondered why members of Congress have
better health care benefits than he does; and another, why illegal
immigrants can get more assistance than he can.
Avi noted a new Times/CBS poll showing broad support for many provisions
in the immigration bill that is being debated by Congress this week. But
while the Times celebrated that "most of those polled agreed that
illegal immigrants should eventually be allowed to apply to become
American citizens," 59 percent said illegal immigrants should be
considered for citizenship only after legal immigrants who have played
by the rules.
Of those polled, 70 percent see illegal immigration as "a drain on the
economy." I'm sure if they were asked, most Americans would set services
for wounded Iraq war veterans as a higher priority than services for the
Since we can never count on government to set popular priorities, I'm
sending another check to Disabled American Veterans tomorrow -- but this
is one charity that shouldn't be necessary. If we are to survive as a
nation, we must take care of those who defend our nation.
While missing the parade, I read the e-mail sent to me about the
Numbers USA reminded me that "there is a reason that the nation's
largest veterans organization -- the American Legion -- is working
alongside us to stop the Senate Comprehensive Amnesty bill: Those whom
we honor today did not die for open borders."
My friend, Jean, sent an essay by Raymond Kraft, who put some things in
perspective: That "WWII cost America more than 400,000 soldiers killed
in action"; and that so far the Iraq War has killed slightly more than
"the people killed by the Jihad in the 9/11 attack." Many more, however,
have been wounded and survived.
I've been thinking about two front-page stories, with photos, that
appeared together in this newspaper last winter. One was about
Swampscott Marine Capt. Jennifer Harris, who died when her helicopter
crashed; the other was about Anna Nicole Smith. The contrast was
startling. Everyone dies, but some die because of foolish personal
choices involving drugs, alcohol, relationships, and after living what
seem to be rather pathetic lives; while others are heroes, whose entire
lives, however short, were exemplary.
I want everyone I love to pass away in their sleep after a long, happy
life. But if all can't, dying while fighting for freedom is better than
being killed by a drunk driver or a terrible disease. Still, I don't
know how parents deal with not knowing how their fighting children are,
day to day; or how the families of the still-missing soldiers can bear
Friends my age were one year ahead of the Vietnam draft. Even as a Navy
wife, I knew mostly older military men who weren't fighting in-country.
There was no war for my son's age group. I worry about what might be
coming for my grandchildren.
Kraft also wrote that war is not a "2-hour movie in which everything
comes out okay. The real world is not like that. It is messy, uncertain,
and sometimes bloody and ugly. It always has been, and probably always
will be. The bottom line is that we will have to deal with Islamic
terrorism until we defeat it, whenever that is. It will not go away if
we ignore it."
He adds: 'If the U.S. can create a reasonably democratic and stable
Iraq, then we have an ally ... in the Middle East, a platform from which
we can work to help modernize and moderate the Middle East. The history
of the world is the clash between the forces of relative civility and
civilization, and the barbarians clamoring at the gates to conquer the
world. ...The Iraq War is merely another battle in this ancient and
never ending war."
Finally, the Patriot Post sent me some holiday-relevant quotes. My
favorite was from General George Patton who insisted, "It is foolish and
wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such
men lived." Amen.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens
for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and
Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and
Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the
Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.