Take a Moment to Remember

By: Brad Deel

It is once again Memorial Day and that day always causes numerous thoughts to roam around in my brain.  This year my six year old finishes her first year of real school in kindergarten.  (We're in Putnam County so she actually has one more day but who's counting).  For many, Memorial Day is the unofficial or official kick off of summertime.  I have other thoughts as well.

I have served in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve for 27 years.  Over those 27 years, I have had to make some sacrifices.  I have missed many weddings, funerals, graduations, and, yes, races due to military duty.  Yet, my sacrifices are vanishingly small in comparison to those who sacrificed everything in the service of their country.

As a person who teaches politics and history, I accept the fact that any use of the military brings on vigorous debate in this country.  That is as it should be.  We should never send our service members into harm's way without having an open, honest, and possibly loud discussion about whether such actions are necessary.  We do not dishonor those who serve by continuing to question whether their ongoing sacrifices in various locations are in our nation's best interest.  I have never been one to call for "unity" because, in the words of General George S. Patton, "if everyone is thinking the same thing, then someone isn't thinking."

Regardless of our debates about the merits of military action, I think the vast majority of us could agree that those who have given their lives in military service deserve our respect and our rememberance.  We can honor those who thought that service to their nation was so important that they gave their lives in that service.  

They died defending the simple notion that people should be able to choose how they are goverened.  We take that concept for granted but the basis of government throughout most of human history has been rooted in the divine right of the King to govern absolutely.  Thus, even when we vigorously disagree about the need or wisdom for using the military in a particular situation, we can nevertheless recognize that the military is subject to control of the civilian govenment and we, as citizens, have a right to choose that government.  If we recognize at least that, then we can also honor those who were willing to sacrifice their lives in defense of that principle. 

So for Memorial Day, we do not need to agree that the military should have been used here or there and we do not dishonor our fallen service members when we disagree.  Indeed, I would argue that we honor them when we disagree because part of what they were defending was our right to disagree.  The world is always more complex than clever slogans or heart wrenching photographs.  What I think we can agree on is that we should honor those who felt that defending the principle of citizen control of their government was more important than their own lives.

What, you may ask, does any of this have to do with running?  Well, not a lot but as a member of the armed services, I can't let Memorial Day pass unremarked.  If you haven't gone out for your run today, take a moment before, during, or after your run to remember those who gave the last full measure of devotion to their country.  If you have gone for a run, take a moment now and remember those who placed more importance on an abstract governmental principle than they placed on their own lives.  Give a silent "thank you" to those who helped create a nation in which you can freely go out for a marvelous run.

See ya out there.

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