Suzette Martinez Standring: Memorial Day: Honor the dead by protecting the living
During the week of Memorial Day, I visit the fallen. The dead have badges and I stop to read one that honors a nurse: 1941 World War 1945, Women’s Relief Corps. Grave badges commemorate those who served in the armed services, marking wars from Revolutionary times to modern day conflicts. Small American flags flutter next to graves at the Milton Cemetery, in Milton, Massachusetts, as if souls, long gone, wave across the acres, “Over here! I served, too. And me!”
I love walking along the knolls and curving paths of Milton Cemetery, founded in 1672. Gravestones marking Puritan graves spread out within the shadows of trees. Later Victorian era design in the cemetery added flowering trees, symbolic monuments and a manmade lake where ducks splash daily. Everywhere American flags next to military graves are reminders of what strangers did for me.
The dead rest in peace. Yet too many active soldiers and veterans exist in a living death. In 2018, the highest number of suicides in the last six years was recorded among men and women in service. According to military.com, “A total of 321 active-duty members took their lives during the year, including 57 Marines, 68 sailors, 58 airmen and 138 soldiers.”
Military men and women prove their love of country with their very lives. They are trained to obey. They enlist, knowing it is not their place to question the wisdom or follow, or even the necessity of putting them in harm’s way. They just follow orders. They serve with highest ideals.
Therefore, the public needs to protect our military. We must demand facts as to the reasons our sons and daughters may be killed. What moral cause is at stake, what documented threat is present, or is it saber rattling gone terribly wrong?
During my walk, a flame-haired woman waters begonias and pansies next to a grave marked “Nash,” and a small flag stands at the side of the stone. “What a beautiful little garden,” I say.
“Ah, the wild turkeys have scratched away all the compost,” she replies in a brogue. She means the mulch, almost as red as her hair, now raked back into place.
Elsewhere visitors in the cemetery dust off stones, weed out dandelions, and prune the small bushes that mark the graves of soldiers. Their tender acts personalize the cost of war. This Memorial Day our entire nation lends the same tender attention to the ultimate sacrifices of our military. As a nation, let’s serve and protect active service men and women in memory of the fallen. They choose to serve without question. We must intelligently measure the worth of the final cost they are willing to pay.
Protect our military by demanding facts. It’s the best way to honor our fallen.
Email Suzette Martinez Standring at firstname.lastname@example.org.