Is Memorial Day Enough? The Case for Shared Sacrifice…

Memorial Day is a day that we are supposed to remember those who have died in our nation’s service.  It is a day to say thank you to those veterans and their families for their service, and ultimate sacrifice, defending our freedom.  It is a day to honor those few brave men and women who have paid the price of these wars – 6,400 U.S. servicemen and women have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and at least 48,000 more have been wounded.

To most Americans, Memorial Day weekend represents an extended reprieve from work and the daily grind.  It means a chance to get together with family and friends for cookouts, trips to the beach or pool, or maybe even a vacation.  Many of us will spend about two minutes thinking about the meaning of Memorial Day or actually remembering the tremendous sacrifice of the few that have served and perished.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, and I am not writing this to pass any judgement.  I am right there with most Americans that spent this past weekend with my family and friends, spending little time (except for this blog post) really doing anything significant to honor our fallen heroes.  The reason is that I do not personally know anyone who has been injured or killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I know many who have served and currently serve in the military, my father, brother-in-law, and several neighbors to name a few.  Most people in America don’t even personally know anyone currently serving in the military or directly impacted by these wars that our country has been engaged in for the past 10 years.

In my opinion, this is one of the fundamental problems of our nation in the last decade – the lack of shared sacrifice.  We have been at war with HUGE costs to our nation – $1 trillion (recent report from Congressional Research Service), 6,400 lives lost, 48,000 wounded, untold mental health/PTSD damage, lasting impacts to military families of those who have suffered loss of life, limb, or mental well-being – just to name a few.  If you are not serving in the wars, or a family member of someone serving, how have you been affected over the last 10 years?  How have you had to sacrifice?  What cost have you felt from these wars?  I don’t feel like I have felt any cost or had to sacrifice anything significant in the past decade as a result of these wars.  Unlike previous wars that our country has fought, the general population has not seen tax increases (we have actually seen several tax decreases), major non-military spending cuts, or any threat of a draft that might make us feel vulnerable or like we have some skin in the game.

This is not an argument for or against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is an argument for shared sacrifice.  How is it that so few in our country bear such a heavy burden for these wars, while the majority go for days, weeks, or years without a single thought or concern about our nation’s battles?  That just does not seem right.  How quickly everyone in America would be paying attention and engaged in debate if the government asked them to sacrifice before deciding to go into war.  If people knew they would pay higher taxes, or the government would need to make major spending cuts, or implement a draft – what would the support for the wars have looked like 10 years ago or today?  I am guessing that we might actually be thinking and talking about the war and whether the sacrifice is worth it, if we all had a little skin in the game.

I am thankful to all those that bravely serve our country.  I am so sorry to all those who have lost someone while defending our freedom – you and your loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice.  How do you honor Memorial Day?  What do you think about the concept of shared sacrifice in terms of the war and how everyday Americans think about the war?

If you want to read more on this topic, here is is the link to an interesting column by Bruce Bartlett, Economist and Writer:

http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/25/shared-sacrifice-war-taxes-opinions-columnists-bruce-bartlett.html

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