Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

We went to visit Nancy's parents as they lay in rest at Mt Tahoma National Cemetery yesterday. Being Memorial Day Weekend, the place was of course decked out with flags and such.

Now I am not a big fan of cemeteries, but I admit the peaceful settings in this one are fairly awesome. It is set in a very natural environment, each section of plots separated by trees, and it is far enough from the city to be fairly quiet and serene.

Being a National Cemetery, the stones have that Arlington like similarity.(

The flags on each stone are placed there by a local Middle School. Each year they volunteer to come out, wash the stones off, and place a flag next to each one, as their way of thanking all the Veterans laying in rest here. I think it shows that an old fashioned type of respect still does exist in many places.

It seems that every day we read about some school changing things, removing flags, or portraits of presidents. The idea seems to permeate us that schools devalue military service and patriotism.

A Seattle High School PTSA recently voted to bar military recruiters from campus. Since the vote has no force other then advisory, in effect it had no weight and the district policy to allow recruiters on campus still is in effect, but the fact remains that this PTSA, one member most vocally, has seen fit to decide that military service is not acceptable for their children.

Watching a TV report, I watched as PTSA co-chair Amy Hagopian's ( continuously harangued a Marine Corps recruiter, constantly insisting he could just quit and walk away. She apparently has no clue what a military commitment entails.
Despite leading a protest at the local recruiting offices, she claimed on a radio that she has no beef against military and military service, and the majority of her complaints are concerning Iraq, more then the military in general. She focuses on complaints about targeting low income kids, instead of the rich politician's children. She also said:

Our P.T.A. has a mission to promote the welfare of children and youth and to support and speak out on their behalf. That's the mission of P.T.A.s everywhere in America. And we would encourage other P.T.A.s to act on behalf of their mission and also look seriously at the recruitment happening in their schools and the nature of that recruitment, the frequency, the intensity, and the hard pressure tactics.

On a couple points I will agree. First, military recruiters do use the hard sell sometimes, as do colleges and other recruiters. They have to. But illegal tactics should be dealt with and I will join anyone in condemning them. Lying recruiters should be in jail. Period. I also concede that statistically lower income kids are more likely to serve in the military. Its really a no brainer, since upper class kids have more money and more options. The military acts as a way for many kids to find training and a career they would not get elsewhere. But the complaints about war mongering and killing ignore a few facts.

First of all, the military also contributes to peaceful activities. The tsunami in Indonesia for example. I can list dozens humanitarian missions I helped support while active duty Air Force. The military has a wider variety of roles then war, and the 100 thousand plus in Iraq are only a percentage of the couple million active duty, reserve and national guard troops, so it also is not certain and guaranteed that any new enlistee will immediately go fight and die in Iraq. Even so, yes, the military does go to war, and wars kill people. The truth though, is even in times of peace, military people die each year in mishaps, accidents and other tragedies, and at a rate not far from the number of deaths in combat in Iraq.

The question of the rightness of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is certainly debatable but the military still has a need even in peace.

Which rolls me back to Lester, my departed father in law. He served in the Pacific in World War II. His actions there, his sacrifices were a part of an effort to ensure peace and freedom in our country. It is ironic that that same freedom is now used to denounce the very military he served in.
So we went to Tahoma and placed flowers and a balloon on Lester's grave. Why? Because he earned the respect, the recognition, and the remembrance. And Mary, buried with him in this plot (military members and their spouses are buried together, her inscription is on the back of the stone) also served, working for Boeing in Seattle, not quite a Rosie the Riveter, but working on blueprints and such. To her, this day also belongs, so the flowers encircle the stone.

We did one other thing. The third stone from the right in this picture ( is their's. In the row of ten they are in, only one other grave site had flowers on it. These other 8 people, all serving in various wars and services deserved some respect as well, and we left a flower on them all. If their loved ones come this weekend to place flowers of their own, let the flower we left, as well as the flags from those many children let them know that someone else remembered.

Let us never forget.