The troubling news this month about long delays in Veterans Administration medical services and alleged coverups has cast a shadow over today’s observance of Memorial Day. And it’s likely there will be expressions of disappointment because of modest turnout at Memorial Day observances, as is sometimes the case. But I don’t think it’s fair to say our country has forgotten its veterans or those who died in military service. Not on the front burner, no, but not forgotten. Americans use sporting events, flag displays, letters to the editor and other outlets to remind each other and teach younger generations about the importance of service and the potential for self-sacrifice it implies.
Here at the library we have a dozen children’s books titled simply Memorial Day. One is written by Fort Wayne’s own Helen Frost. That number means to me that publishers see a market out there among families and educators for explaining to children why they are not going to school today. It’s not a holiday universally observed, but its spirit is part of mainstream America.
I’ve never been a soldier, but I’ve often imagined what it must be like to be one, especially in combat. I’ve paid my respects on many battlefields to the soldiers who helped create our country and later preserve it without slavery, and I hope to someday go to Pearl Harbor and Omaha Beach. I sometimes disagree with U.S. military actions, but I am grateful for our service members, and I believe the great majority of Americans are as well.