On Veterans Day, the nation honors all who served. On Memorial Day, it specifically honors the ones who fell.
Initially, this celebration was created to commemorate the Civil War. Today, however, the thoughts of most Americans are probably focused on the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines killed in the very recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Their shortened lives contain many valuable lessons for their countrymen. One lesson is about patriotism and heroism — the extent of the sacrifice that brave men and women will make for their country when called to do so.
Their experience also demonstrates that political leaders' decisions have grave consequences. Every time America's leaders choose to engage in war — whether their decision is wise or foolish, right or wrong, justified or unjustified — they are sending a force of mostly young men, just out of their teenage years, to go and break things and kill people with maximum force and speed. Those young people make the U.S. military the world's greatest, but they always serve at the risk of paying the ultimate price. Even in the most glorious victory, many are sure to fall.
Today marks the first Memorial Day since the Biden administration's ignominious failure in its withdrawal from Afghanistan. President Joe Biden has since defended his actions with the accurate observation that a withdrawal had to happen at some point. But this hardly suffices to explain how he has dishonored the dead.
It is true that U.S. policymakers must never fall prey to the fallacy of sunken costs. At some point, there is no point in losing additional lives. But a well-planned and competent withdrawal would have honored the sacrifices of those who died in the longest war in America's history. Instead, Biden abandoned the Afghan allies who made the U.S. war effort possible to be murdered in reprisal. He left American troops and American civilians undefended and vulnerable, in the hands of the Taliban's security, which resulted in a terrorist attack that killed 13.
Instead of staging a chaotic, unplanned, disorderly retreat, Biden should have used some common sense. He should have put the federal government's enormous defense budget to work making adequate plans for military operations instead of purchasing vile, racialist tracts and making service members read as part of a disgraceful indoctrination teaching them that nothing at all about their nation is worth defending in the first place.
On this day, Americans must resolve to do better next time. This is how they can best honor the sacred memory of all those who gave the full measure.