Captain George Harris: Memorial Day 2016
As Memorial Day approaches once again, I have been thinking about it more and more. Perhaps it is because I have been reading more books about the war, the latest being “With the Old Breed” by E.B. Sledge who was a Marine mortar man In K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division during the battles of Pelilieu and Okinawa.
As we know, Memorial Day, is a day when we, as Nation, remember those who died in the service of our Nation. Those of us of a “certain age” remember this day as Decoration Day, which was established shortly after the Civil War. And we have many Americans to remember because more than a million Americans have died in all the wars we have fought from the Revolutionary War to our present 15 year war in the Middle East.
Some 2,400 years ago, Plato said, “The dead have seen the end of war.” They lie silently in military cemeteries all over our Nation from our National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia to cemeteries in every state of the union and in cemeteries overseas. These cemeteries bear witness to the cost of war. Headstones and monuments, including our Tomb of the Unknowns, stand as silent sentries over those who have given the last full measure of devotion.
But what of those who have given less that the last full measure? In the last 15 years, more than a million young men and women have had their lives altered forever. Some have had “million dollar wounds” but many have lost one or more limbs while others have suffered traumatic brain injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Across our nation, 22 veterans die by their own hand every day. That’s one every 65 minutes. And our Veterans Administration health care system is overwhelmed. Just as we owe those who have fallen for their sacrifice, we also owe those remain among us.
So today, when you pause to remember those who have died in the service of our Nation, I ask that you take a few moments to remember those who served and came home to live among us to remind us that, as John Steinbeck said, “All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.
Thank you, George, for your words of honor again this year. For those who don’t know, George Harris is our honorary poet laureate of Moonhowlings. George began his military career as a young kid, age 18, in the Navy. He served as a corpsman in Korea and in Vietnam. He has certainly seen more than his fair share of mayhem and destruction of the human soul.
Thanks again, George, for guiding us in the right direction on this day.