Greg’s Corner – The High Cost of Memorial Day

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

Editor’s note: Greg’s Corner is an editorial (opinion) section where Messenger Reporter Greg Ritchie shares odds and ends from the job and unusual or interesting facts from across the world and across time.

MESSENGER OFFICE –  In the newspaper business, days off are few and can be both a blessing and a curse. With only two days to put together a newspaper, a holiday only crunches that into a single day, with all the pressure that can entail. But we have all earned a three-day weekend in this current world. Times are tough and unsure, and even sleeping in until seven will feel pretty nice. 

There are differences between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. All veterans, living or dead are honored in November. But Memorial Day is a day to honor those who gave it all, from the 16-year-old who lied about his age to join up, to the farmers who stopped Santa Ana at San Jacinto. 

We still remember World War II as the “good war,” and for us, it certainly was. We were the only combatant not to get mauled and have our people and infrastructure destroyed. No other major combatant could build ships and tanks night and day without fear of enemy planes raining death from the sky. For Europe, it was different. The winners were losers, too. 

The Soviet Union had half their country ruined and lost 40 million souls. The British, who joined the war to protect Poland, saw the end of the war with that country dominated by Stalin instead of Hitler, and the empire demolished, never to rise again. 

War, therefore, is all about perspective. 

Should we send our kids to die in any of the dozen or so wars around the world today? The founding fathers didn’t think so, and warned Americans to mind their own business. Back when the world united to free Kuwait, sure. The second Iraq war? What was gained by that? Fly planes into our buildings and you rattle this big dog’s cage – expect a response. But to occupy Afghanistan for 20 years? What did we gain? In the end, the Taliban is back in power. 

We were told if South Vietnam fell to communism, a domino effect would entail and all of South Asia would be doomed. South Vietnam did fall to communism. Today, you can go on fishing tours there. 

I doubt if the average Russian or Ukrainian soldier understands much of the geopolitics involved in the situation over there. But as long as that guy in the other trench is shooting at you, by God, you are going to shoot back. 

Did Israel have a right a defend itself after it was attacked? No question. Does it have a right to destroy a people over it? Should we give any foreign nation a blank check to respond any way it wants? How much of our hard-earned blood or treasure should we send to any foreign land? Which of our local graduating seniors are we willing to sacrifice for places most of us will never visit or be able to find on a map?

For the common solider – those we honor on this holiday – the issue was always much simpler. A young Texan, bobbing up and down in those landing craft about to hit Normandy Beach, wanted to survive, do his duty, protect his brothers crouching around him and take the fight to the enemy. The German boys – who never got to vote for Hitler one way or the other – wanted the same. To defend their homes and if needed, to not die a coward. 

I don’t know a whole lot about China, I will admit. I have no love for them, but no hatred, either. It seems like they are working on something suspicious over there, but only time will tell what their plan is. Should they storm Galveston, I won’t ask and I won’t care. I will take as many as I can with me before I go to meet my maker. Simple as that. 

There are no “good” or “bad” wars. It’s just old men sending young men to die. You hope it’s for a good cause, and few soldiers believe they are the bad guys. You are given a rifle and you try to do your best. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not some bleeding heart or pacifist, Lord knows. Sometimes we need to use our big stick and protect our interests around the world. Only we seem to have so many “interests” in so many places, I often wonder if we will not look back someday and think we have all gone crazy. 

Is Ukraine’s border more sacred than the Rio Grande? Do Taiwanese fishing rights merit the life of even one of our kids? Are Israeli lives worth more than ours? 

This Memorial Day, I join our readers in praying for the souls of those who met an early end, no matter why, no matter where. My family fought for the South, but those Yankee boys were just doing their job, too. 

This Memorial Day, I will pray for our nation, that sanity returns, so that our cemeteries will be graced only by older people, who lived full and happy lives. I pray for our people, that we can come together and correct course; that we defend what makes us great.

And I pray we will bring our troops home. We need them here. Tougher times are coming and we don’t have a father, son, husband or brother to spare in some faraway land. Nor mothers, wives, daughters or sisters, for that matter. 

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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