I would guess that I’m “celebrating” Memorial Day much as many across the country are. I’ve got the day off work, and we’re just enjoying the day off. My daughter had a friend sleep over last night, and they are playing with the boys. Burgers and steaks are on the Jenn-Aire. It’s drizzly out, so we’re not really doing anything special outside.
I spent part of today thinking back over my Memorial Days of the past. In high school, this weekend marked the last parade and band event of the school year. We’d form at the Hermann Fine Arts Center, then parade north on 5th Street to one of the cemeteries which name escapes me at the moment. We’d play something patriotic at the cemetery, then our first trumpets would march off to echo Taps. At that, we’d disband, and go our separate ways.
I understood what the holiday was commemorating, but the significance of the events didn’t really settle with me until I was I the service. I spent just under three years in the Army. I was stationed with D Battery, 6/52 ADA, in Hardheim, Germany. It was actually West Germany, back when there was such a distinction. We were about a twenty minute flight time from the East-West border, so when the missile crews practiced getting a missile in the air in twelve minutes, it meant something. A couple of friends who I grew up with served. I still stay in touch with some of the folks I served with from 1986 to 1989. At least one of them is serving with US Army Special Forces.
Even back then, military people were dying. There were a few armed conflicts, but most of the deaths were training missions gone bad. But they were still people dying in the service of their country.
I guess this is a little more in my mind after reading about recent doings of Michael Crook, and his anti-soldier website ForsakeTheTroops. I’ll not provide the URL. He’s mainly looking for traffic, and I’m not going to give it to him.
At any rate, Crook developed his site earlier this year after he determined that our troops are overpaid. He’s got a problem with the salaries and benefits that military personnel receive, like free uniforms, free medical care, meals and housing. He thinks much of that should be done away with, and service members should be forced to pay for uniforms, housing, medical care, and equipment on their own. Not sure how he expects them to do that if you cut their pay, but that’s another post.
He’s vitriolic in his criticism of the military, claiming that most couldn’t hack it in the “real world,” wherever or whatever that might be. I wonder if he’s ever noticed how many politicians are former service members. Hmm. Now that I think about it, are most politicians living in the real world? I digress.
I also wonder if he’s considered the irony behind his position. He’s slamming the people who are guaranteeing his right to libel them. He’s said several times that he’s against the war in Iraq, and that the troops there are not fighting for any freedom for him. But the way he’s talking about the troops who did fight for his freedom is saddening. He wants to do away with all veteran’s benefits, like the VA hospitals, and presumably the funeral benefits as well (a flag, cemetery marker, and the right to a military honor detail). He’s dancing on the graves of those who died and shed blood for his right to be able to speak the way he is speaking of them.
There are many who would ask the government to shut down his website. Aside from being illegal (there’s that pesky First Amendment, you know), it wouldn’t do any good. There’s really nothing to stop him from moving to an offshore server. But shutting him down that way wouldn’t accomplish what his opponents want. It would only increase his volume as he complained about government force being used against him. Better to let him stew in the irony of his position, and let him fade into obscurity instead of extending his fifteen minutes of fame.
In a tragic sort of way, we could thank him. He daily reminds us exactly why we served.