#379 – Dick Bernard: Memorial Day 2011. Confusing Times

Today I will probably attend a Memorial Day observance sponsored by Veterans for Peace near the Minnesota State Capitol; I’ll wear the Buddy Poppy purchased at Hibbing from a VFW member on May 13, and a Forget-me-not purchased from a Disabled American Veteran here in Woodbury a couple of days ago.
Yesterday I drove over to a Minneapolis Church and put up a display for and answered questions about World Citizen and A Million Copies. The founder of World Citizen, Lynn Elling, still living, was a Navy officer in WWII and again in Korea who witnessed the horrific aftermath of Tarawa Beach and has since devoted his life to seeking enduring peace. He is the subject of A Million Copies, along with Dr. Joe Schwartzberg, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. Joe is a military veteran in the Korean War era.
The ‘center piece’ for that display at the south Minneapolis Church was this photograph of Dad’s brother, my Uncle Frank Bernard, in happier times in Hololulu, before he probably woke up just in time to die on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. He is one of a boat-load of members of my own family circles who served this country in the military, including myself.
Some did not return alive.

Frank Bernard of the USS Arizona at Honolulu HI sometime before December 7, 1941


So it goes.
Memorial Day is a day of mixed messages. We honor the fallen, true, but only our own.
In too many ways we seem to still revere War as a solution, when it never has been a solution: one War only begets the next, and worse, War…. Their deaths justify more deaths….
I offer two other websites this day – places to reflect on this business of Memorial Day.
The first is this from the Washington Post, a site with photos of our soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I did a rough count at this site, and it appears that in the year since the last Memorial Day, 132 in U.S. service have died in Iraq; 494 in Afghanistan. There have been 6,013 U.S. military deaths in all, just since 2001. Compared with WWII and Korea and Vietnam, the casualty numbers are small, which makes it easier to diminish our ‘cost of war’.
The deaths are tangible reminders of an endless debate over the need for or wisdom of War. This will be played out millions of times today, whenever somebody has a thought, or reads a paper or listens to radio or watches TV.
I looked at another long-standing website that has labored mightily to keep accurate records of the carnage in Iraq during the past decade: conservatively, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead from war – this in a country roughly the size and population of California. War is not one-sided, with only soldiers as victims. It is mostly innocent civilians who die.
The cost of war is far more than just our own cost in lives on the battlefield and, now, over a trillion dollars in national treasure just for Iraq. One of the last e-mails of the day, yesterday, was from a friend who had just attended a funeral of her friends husband “…62, mental illness, cancer, Agent Orange. His Purple Heart was there and other medals. His son [both are Marine vets] told me the Veterans Administration wouldn’t listen to his Dad. Do you know where [the son] could get some help?” Was that man a casualty of war too? There are lots of ‘walking wounded’.
I will follow up on the request. I’ll see what I can do.
We are a nation in love with War: if you’ve been to Washington D.C., or any State Capitol, see the monuments.
Can we act for Peace?
I’d invite you to visit the website for a group of which I am proudly a member, the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation.
Consider joining.

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