Some time back I was watching a program on the History Channel. The footage being displayed was of the taking of the Pacific Islands held by the Japanese, late in the war. U.S. forces were using flamethrowers, pouring flaming death down the throats of the caves which the Japanese soldiers were using as fortresses. These were some of the most hard fought battles of World War II in the Pacific.
I wept for those Japanese soldiers. They had answered the call of their country, and whatever my perspective on how justified or unjustified that call may have been, they served the nation of their origin. I wept for the horrible death that rained down upon them. It was a horrible spectacle.
I also wept for the soldiers manning those flamethrowers. A dangerous task, and a horrible thing to do to another human being. Yes, they were raining death down upon the enemy of the United States. They as soldiers had also answered the call of their nation, and found themselves far from home doing what was necessary, but still horrible. The memory of such acts cannot be easy to bear.
The soldier is the edge of the sword of his or her nation. A sword does not select its target. A sword does the will of the one who wields it. The task of the sword is to be a sword, as the task of the soldier is to be a soldier. The honor of the sword and the honor of the soldier is the same. Like the honor of a sword, the honor of the soldier is not defined by the one who wields the weapon. The honor is in faithful service.
War is glorified beyond reason. Though sometimes necessary, it is always regrettable. Fancy parades and uniforms and marching bands are grand and wonderful things, but it always comes down to raining flaming death down upon other human beings. Even those who survive are often scarred beyond any real healing.
On this Memorial Day we honor the sacrifice of those who have served this Great Nation. That is good, and right, and honorable. I suggest that those of us who can reach beyond that, and remember that those who stood against us were soldiers as well. Perhaps a degree of honor and respect is due them, as well. They answered the call, and served.
A friend of mine served in the taking of those islands in World War II. He was wounded in two separate assaults. In one assault the Americans fought all the way to the highest point on that particular island. The Japanese defended to the end. Few Japanese survived.
Many, many years later this friend visited that same island, and stood in a memorial park at that last defense. There, quite by accident, he met one of those few Japanese defenders. They shook hands and had pictures taken of their meeting. They honored one another.
A soldier serves his country. I honor those who serve.
I am currently 62 years old. At present I am a retired correctional officer with 20 years of service. (My real job these days is being a Grandpa.)
I am married to my long-suffering wife, Linda. I have three children; Matthew, Beth, and Jon. I currently have six grandchildren; Alexandra, Madelyn, Wyatt, Lucas, Abigail and Landon.