To Those Whom We Owe Our Freedom

Today is Memorial Day, the last Monday in May when the US honors those men and women who laid down their lives to protect the freedom that most people take for granted.

It was originally enacted to honor the Union soldiers of the American Civil War but after World War I was significant for remembering all casualties of any war or military action.

Before we lost our flagpole I used to respectfully lower the flag to half mast every Memorial Day. For the last couple of years I haven’t been able to do so (for the rather obvious reason that you need a flagpole to lower a flag on).

In the traditional American way there are big “blowout sales” on Memorial Day weekend and families go out to have picnics, barbecues, get together with friends and attend sporting events.

To some this might seem like a lack of understanding or caring about the event. But in an ironic twist this is exactly what all those men and women died for. The ability for us to go about our lives and celebrate our freedom. To be able to do the things that we want to do, when we want to do them. To spend every day of our lives without the fear of repercussion from others. For being us.

I did some reading this weekend. In World War I there were over 20 million civilian and military deaths. A war that took the lives, on average, of 13,699 people a day. Every day. For 4 years. That’s 9 people an hour, every hour, for 4 years.

In World War II, a war that isn’t so distant from many people alive today, the numbers were far greater. 75 million people lost their lives in a little over 6 years. That’s 32,051 people every single day the war was fought. If you were to wipe out the population of England in 6 years, you would still be 15 million people short of that number.

Why do we fight for these causes? Is it religion, freedom, political gains, land grabbing?

Every war has its reasons. World War I was about economic and military gains. World War II began, in part, as a result of the defeat of the German Empire in World War I. Both caused phenomenal tragic losses that would affect entire families and cities for decades to come.

But it is the belief that we are fighting for the right cause that continued to send young men and women into battle. To lay down their lives in the belief that they are protecting everything that they hold dear. In the belief that their way of life is the right way.

It’s not them that make the decision to fight. They are merely the executors of the powers that be. But it is the soldiers that lose their lives. Nobody chooses to die on a battlefield.

Had I been alive during either of those two wars I am pretty sure I would have been sent off to fight in a battle with men whom I would never meet, that I have never talked to that were out to kill me for no other reason than they would believe that I was there to change their way of life.

Knowing what I know today about what is important, as much as I wouldn’t want to go, I’d be there if it meant freedom for my family.

And that’s why I have the utmost respect for those that chose, and didn’t, to go to war and defend our way of life. Our freedom. Our beliefs.

My dad once told me that my grandfather was in the British Home Guard (it’s like the National Guard in the US). He would go to his training and do his patrols. “If ever he met a German,” he said, “he would say ‘halt! who goes there’ and then ask him if he wanted a cup of tea. He didn’t want to fight.” But I know deep down he would if he had to. If it meant protecting everything that he held so dear. This humble kind hearted man would have done everything he could to protect his family I’m sure.

Today is a day to remember, and honor, those that died – regardless of whom they fought for and why they fought.

We shouldn’t have to fight to resolve our differences, but unfortunately it’s the human way. If only we could resolve our differences over a cup of tea – how civilized we would be.

We remember these fallen men and women. Hopefully, one day, we will learn from our decisions and never need to to send another one of our brothers, sisters, fathers or mothers into the hell that is war. One day…