Monday, May 31, 2010

Reflections on Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day, a day on which we Americans celebrate the men and women who gave their lives while serving in our Armed Forces. We celebrate by taking the day off work and throwing barbecues, boldly embracing the freedom they fought and died for. A fitting tribute, I think.

For me, Memorial Day isn't a terribly personal holiday. I've known family members who served in the military, but as far as I know all were lucky enough to live to tell the tale. But that doesn't make me indifferent to the cause that we honor today. As a history buff and author of historical fiction, I can't help look back at the wars we've fought with a critical and curious and compassionate eye.

By and large, I have the soul of a pacifist and the convictions of a conscientious objector. The humanitarian in me wishes we had fought fewer wars in our nation's brief history, but the realist in me understands why these things occur, and why they sometimes need to. And so, I feel grateful for those who stand up and serve, because it's not a job any of us should take lightly.

In a few weeks, I'll be traveling to Washington D.C. for a library conference. I don't know how much time I'll have to explore the monuments, but I hope to get a chance to walk around the outdoor war memorials and such. I was there a few years ago, and I found it a meaningful stroll. One of those moments when I felt like part of a much greater whole, as a citizen and an American, as a piece of the great web of history that encompasses all of our stories.

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