Memorial Day Editorials Honor the Past, Confront the Present

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By: E&P Staff

On Memorial Day weekend, at the end of a bloody and discouraging month in Iraq, many of the nation’s newspapers paid service to the veterans of all wars while exploring choices posed by the current conflict.

The Sun of Baltimore took a particularly strong stand: “If the Bush administration truly wanted to memorialize the war dead, it wouldn’t spirit them into Dover Air Force Base under cover of a photo blackout — as if the White House were ashamed of those who died abroad. If the president truly wished to honor their memory, he would demonstrate to the nation that the government that has botched so much of the war at least has some inkling as to how to draw it to a successful conclusion — so that the dead will not have died in vain.

“But critics of the war have a particular responsibility, too. The best way to honor the memory of all those American heroes who have been killed in action is not to lose faith, or hope, but to remain engaged, to hold the administration to account, to seek out and advocate ways to achieve a real peace in Asia. It still must be possible — and it would be a lasting monument to those who gave their lives for their country.”

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune also hit hard. “In exchange for our uniformed young people’s willingness to offer the gift of their lives, civilian Americans owe them something important: It is our duty to ensure that they never are called to make that sacrifice unless it is truly necessary for the security of the country.

“In the case of Iraq, the American public has failed them; we did not prevent the Bush administration from spending their blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes. Perhaps it happened because Americans, understandably, don’t expect untruths from those in power. But that works better as an explanation than as an excuse. …

“As this bloody month of car bombs and American deaths — the most since January — comes to a close, as we gather in groups small and large to honor our war dead, let us all sing of their bravery and sacrifice. But let us also ask their forgiveness for sending them to a war that should never have happened. In the 1960s it was Vietnam. Today it is Iraq.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel observed: “More than 1,800 Americans have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, at least 35 of them from Wisconsin. Heading into the weekend, the latest Wisconsinite to die in the service of his country was Army Pfc. Kyle Hemauer, 21, a 2002 graduate of Chilton High School, who lost his life in Afghanistan.

“Because there is more work to be done on these two fronts, the list of fallen Americans will grow longer, the graves more numerous, the number of grieving families larger. It is both the honor and the obligation of the rest of us, the survivors, to remember and honor those brave patriots who will never come home.”

The Record of Bergen County, N.J.: “When the invasion of Iraq began more than two years ago, no one believed we would still be mourning American losses today.

“Yet almost 1,650 U.S. soldiers have died, and they continue to die on an average of one each day. Even with a new Iraqi government in place, the insurgency grinds on, and American losses continue in this war that more and more Americans seem to want to ignore.”

The Albuquerque Tribune noted: “This year’s deaths bring to 10 the number of New Mexicans in arms who have died since the war in Iraq began.

“We must never forget them. Here are more things we can do in their name:

“We should support nonpartisan federal and state legislation that helps veterans and their families, such as Gov. Bill Richardson’s successful effort earlier this year to provide $250,000 in life insurance to New Mexico’s National Guard and Reserve members serving their country.

“We could, as a columnist recently suggested in the Tribune, say a simple, spontaneous thank-you by offering to buy a vet a meal at a local restaurant. Or buy a vet a drink at the local pub. We could do a favor for the family of an active duty serviceman or woman.

“We could encourage and praise celebrities, public figures or politicians who help our men and women in uniform or their families, as the governor did earlier this year by buying a plane ticket so that a grieving father could attend the military funeral of a his slain son in New Mexico.

“In these, and many other ways, we can honor those who have honored us and our country with their duty, their courage and, too often, their lives.”

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