Memorial Day 2016: ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’
“Their life consisted wholly and solely of war, for they were and always had been front-line infantrymen. They survived because the fates were kind to them, certainly—but also because they had become hard and immensely wise in animal-like ways of self-preservation.”—Ernie Pyle, World War II journalist, writing about what he saw at the front. Killed in action April 18, 1945.
In America, today is Memorial Day. It is a day of remembrance for those Americans who died in war. There is a long history behind this day, which was first named “Decoration Day,” as those in mourning for dead relatives would decorate the graves of the dead soldiers. It dates from shortly after the Civil War. Memorial Day is a commemoration, not celebration, as this is not a day for celebrating.
The commemoration that this day represents is an acknowledgment that soldiers are sent to fight and many die. War is a saddening, maddening fact of life, whether or not it ought to be.