Monday, August 16, 2004

War and Remembrance

Nestled on the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial is a poignant reminder of the effort expended by -- and the terrible sacrifice extracted from -- a generation of young men and women who saved the world.

Our weekend trip to the D.C. metro area brought the chance to walk among veterans, family members, and fellow tourists checking out the new memorial. Separate portions pay tribute to those who fought in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of operations; embossed quotes punctuate the enormity of their accomplishment. A series of bas reliefs offers a nod to efforts on the homefront.

Most striking was the wall of stars, each representing a certain number of servicemen and servicewomen killed during the war, above a slab marked with words reminding visitors of the price of freedom.

In an age of ambiguous combat, it's tempting to look back 60 years with a kind of wistful longing for a "cleaner," less questionable war. The threat posed by the Axis powers was immediate and obvious, and the enemy was easily identified and found. World War II is described sometimes as our country's last "just" war, though I'd argue that efforts to locate and either capture or kill Osama bin Laden are easily morally defensible.

But to argue about whose war was "better" serves no purpose except to diminish the bravery and commitment of all Americans who have answered the call to serve. Regardless of one's politics, the World War II Memorial stands as an elegant and appropriate acknowledgment of fallen heroes who in death preserved liberty and made possible so much good that followed.


At August 17, 2004 at 10:27 AM, Blogger Tom G. said...

I work in a profession that deals with a lot of elderly people. Through it I've met veterans that were at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked, landed at Guadalcanal, were at the Remagen Bridge, and landed at Iwo Jima.

They are all very proud of what they did, inwardly, but rarely bring it up, and if you mention something to them about it they just sort of shrug and say, "well, we did what had to be done" or a very similar understated statement.

My generation has had it pretty easy (I'm 31), collectively speaking, and I often wonder how I personally would have handled situations such as those in WWII or Korea or Vietnam or one of today's conflicts.

We owe all veterans a lot, and that is definitely and understatement.

At August 18, 2004 at 8:39 PM, Blogger gr said...

i go out of town for a weekend and look what happens: you dursos start taking over the town.


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