military memorial service

On a quiet morning 76 years ago today, Imperial Japanese forces attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. More than 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,100 more wounded. Twenty-one ships of the Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged, including the USS Arizona. Shocked and angered by the attack, the country joined the Allied forces to fight World War II, inspired by the call of “Remember Pearl Harbor.” A moving reminder of the service and sacrifice of those who fought, the USS Arizona Memorial is jointly administered by the U.S. Navy and the National Park Service. Photo by National Park Service.

“Don’t Go Daddy”

A withered basket of flowers.

A wrinkled up, fading plastic flag.

A child’s toy.

Left by a memorial monument .

For the men and women who “gave all for our freedom”. Gave all for our country, other countries and the world. They MUST not be forgotten. And our duties and respect to them must not be allowed to wither. Like that plant. Or forgotten like this old toy.

But what are our duties to them ? If OUR FREEDOM was the gift they have given us with their service and sacrifice, what should we be doing with it? Should we celebrate? Wave our own flags and rally around it with a sense of bravado like the winners of a high school football game? Or should we take the opportunities that they have all given us. The opportunity to create a better country. And by extension a better world.

Men and women in our armed forces make the choice to stand up for our country. Not just the symbols that are part of our country, like the flags or the songs, or the pieces of old parchment with noble words written on them. But for us. You and me. And they do it with images of us all carried in their hearts. With words from us wringing in their ears as they head into harm’s way. Words like “I love you honey”. Or “Don’t go Daddy!”. And they go anyway. They cover up their physical and emotional pain, their deepest fears, their longing for home and those that wait there, their regrets, and their doubts about why they do this. They cover it up in their sense of patriotism, courage, honor, and discipline. They don’t just use words like code and brotherhood, they define them.  And again, by extension they define them for the rest of us too.

So. Maybe we need to do more with this freedom provided. Maybe we need to use it to examine the sacrifices made by these people. Not just wave flags and cheer. They give us their lives and we give them parades and a weak system of health care. They give us their blood, sweat and tears. We give them the occasional handshake or pat on the back. We give them an honor song and let them carry an Eagle staff at pow-wows. And we keep them in the only identity that seems to mean anything to us and call them Veterans. But in spite of all they have given us, we ask for more. Not from those that have already given and have come home maybe, but in the young ones still out there. Or the young ones soon to sign up. And we seem to do that without any forethought. As if that beautiful, rich resource of young lives is endless. As if we are spending pennies instead of something with worth beyond measure. Maybe it is time we USE that freedom they fought for and gave us to question why we continue to do this. Maybe it is time to question our “leadership’, not with the intent to just cause dissension, but with true purpose. To question it with the same resolve, integrity, commitment and perseverance that makes our military people shine in the eyes of the world. And maybe, just maybe, one day, we won’t need a Veterans Day anymore. And no more Daddies (or Mommies) will have to go anyplace.  

Chi Miigwetch.

Today marks the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. With over 23,000 combined casualties suffered by both the Union and Confederate armies, it remains the bloodiest day in American history. It’s hard to imagine the horror that ravaged this Maryland community when you walk the now peaceful fields of Antietam National Battlefield. Photo by National Park Service.

2

“Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day has its origins in the observances of organized women’s groups who would come together and use flowers to decorate the graves of loved ones who died in the Civil War.”

“WWI: Over 24,000 women served in World War I half of whom were nurses in the Navy, Army, and Red Cross.”

“WWII: From 1942-1945, while men fought in the battlefront of World War II, over 18 million women filled the civilian and defense positions created is the country’s shift to wartime productions.”

“Today: In Iraq, the front line is everywhere and everywhere in Iraq, women in the U.S. military fight. More than 155,000 of them have served in Iraq since 2003. This is 4 times the number of women sent to Desert Storm in 1991- and more than 430 have been wounded and over 70 killed. This is almost twice the number of U.S. military women killed in action in Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm combined.”

“Military Pioneers:

•During the Mexican War, Elizabeth C. Newcume, in male attire, was brought into military service at Fort Leavenworth in September 1847. She served ten months and spent time fighting Indians at Dodge City until her sex was discovered and she was discharged.

•The first woman to receive The Medal of Honor was Dr. Mary E. Walker, a contract surgeon during the Civil War.

•The first woman to receive The Purple Heart was Annie G. Fox while serving at Hickam Field during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec 7 1941.

•Loretta Walsh was the first woman to enlist in March 1917.

•The first military all women band was the Women’s Army Band organized at Fort Des Moines in 1942. It was led by then sergeant, MaryBelle Nissly.

•In 1967 Master Sergeant Barbara J. Dulinsky, who had volunteered for duty in Vietnam, reported to the Military Assistance Command in Saigon – the first woman Marine ordered to a combat zone.

•In 1990 Commander Darlene Iskra became the first woman to command a U.S. Navy ship – the U.S.S. Opportune.”