and remember those who were lost protecting us

8

I remember the day I came to the rainbow room and you were gone. So, when my gifts were strong enough, I used them to escape, and I ran. I ran away as far as I could, and it was there, far away, that I found a place to hide, a family, a home, just like you and your policeman, but they couldn’t help me. So, eventually, I lost them, too. So, I decided to play the part, to stop hiding, to use my gifts against those who hurt us.

Today is the Volkstrauertag (People’s day of mourning) here in Germany, where we remember those who have died fighting for this country.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the first world war, and while we should not forget everyone else who gave their lives for this country, today we should remember those many have already forgotten, their sacrifice overshadowed by the injustices of the war that followed 25 years later, a war that sadly tainted also the memory of those who had nothing to do with it.

One hundred years ago, a war broke out that many believed would be over before Christmas, but it continued for four years and left over two million German soldiers dead.

The first world war was the first and possibly worst mistake of the 20th century - 1914 was the year in which old Europe, the continent of world powers and shining beacon of scientific and technological progress died and began its slow descent into decay and irrelevance, and worse, it paved the way for another war, more brutal than anything the world had ever seen before.

This is what policies of calculated risk of armed conflict lead to, escalation that was allowed to happen and wasn’t stopped until it was too late - however, the common soldier on either side had little to do with those plans and strategies.

The common soldier, men like many of you who are reading this, had lived an ordinary life until the war broke out. Then his nation called, and he answered.

Today is not about failed long term strategies and historical mistakes - today is about men like you and me who fought for emperor, god and country, not only because it was expected of them, but because they wanted to protect their country, their families at home and the future of their children.

Optimism, even euphoria was common among them as the war broke out, for they believed that nothing could withstand the military might of our empire. And indeed, for a while it looked like the decisive victory to end this war was within arm’s reach until the tides turned and the march turned into a standstill. The optimism experienced by these men soon faded away when they were confronted with the grim reality of industrialized warfare, and what they experienced in the trenches of France is something we cannot imagine in the comfort of our homes today.

They went to fight because the emperor called them, and many, more than two million, paid with their lives. As the saying goes, all gave some and some gave all - but one hundred years ago, too many gave all where nothing was to be gained.

But these sons of farmers, craftsmen, workers and intellectuals couldn’t have known about the hell that was awaiting them. They came from all corners of the empire, from all classes and backgrounds, united under the banner of their country and monarch to do what they believed was right and to protect those whom they loved.

From today’s perspective it is easy to say that their efforts were futile, that the war should never have happened and all sides involved lost in the end, and from a sober, historical perspective there’s truth to that. But nevertheless, these men died for what they loved. Their sacrifice was real, and neither could they have known about what was to come, nor should we allow this to taint the memory of those who did not survive the horrors of those tragic four years.

Let us remember them today, and let us keep this memory alive. We owe them that much.

Mögen sie Frieden finden beim Herrn.

Honor the Sacrifice Even if You Can’t Honor the Sentiment

Today, I thought about doing a post about Memorial Day outfit inspiration. But I decided that like most holidays, the meaning of Memorial Day is growing farther and farther away from us.

As someone so fiercely patriotic, it’s easy to say “land of the free because of the brave.” It’s easy to post sentimental videos and info graphics to social media. It’s easy to wear red white and blue.


But what kind of comfort is a recent widow given by a cliche (but true, and appropriate) quote? What comfort is a parent that’s lost a child given by a picture of a golden retriever holding an American flag? What does a Memorial Day OOTD do for a child orphaned by war?

I think that most civilians recognize that the reality of war is something they’ll probably never fully understand. People are changed by war, and while some are able to readjust, others return mere shadows of who they once were, if at all. As much as proud Americans like myself would like to think that everyone in the military make a sacrifice of selflessness for something they may not always agree with or understand because of their boundless love for old glory and what she represents, but the truth is often more complicated. The truth isn’t always the Chris Kyle story. Sometimes it’s the story of someone who forgot what they were fighting for.

I think that this Memorial Day, it’s important to remember that what we celebrate today is more than an idea or a spirit, it’s millions of individual names and stories and loved one left behind. And as we commemorate the ultimate sacrifice, we can’t selectively remember the lives we’ve lost, or their legacies. We must honor those that protected and served honorably, no matter how much their perspectives differ from our own.