Caban: Observations ahead of Memorial Day


For better or worse, I care a lot about this country and its public discourse.

I care about how we treat each other, specifically those who have served our country. In this instance, I’m speaking about those who served in the United States Armed Forces as well as their families.

As the son of an Air Force veteran and a military spouse, I know all too well the sacrifices that the members of our military and their families make.

I always try and remember to thank folks in uniform for their service. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I do it anyway.

If I could change one thing about our public policy, it would be to find a way to stop politicizing our Armed Forces. But alas I’m a realist and know that people with agendas will always find a way to try and argue their point.

I’m a bit of a politico/policy wonk (or at least tried to stay informed). I think being well read in our nation’s history, basic civics and current events make for a better citizen.

With that in mind, I read up a bit on the history on Memorial Day. The U.S. Department of Veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website has a short overview of the holiday’s history. It was originally known as Decoration Day upon its creation on May 5, 1868, which was three years after the Civil War. Decoration Day was meant to honor those who died fighting in the Civil War.

According to the VA’s website multiple locations have staked a claim to originating Memorial Day: “approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.”

The holiday was eventually amended to include those who died in all American wars. This happened after World War I. Then, in 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday.

When I was younger Memorial Day meant school was done and I could look forward to the lazy days of summer.

This year’s Memorial Day will likely feel different due to the coronavirus pandemic and the toll it has taken on many of us.

This time around I hope I will spend a little more time reflecting on what the holiday means to me. Of course, that means thinking about those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

However, it also mean reflecting on what and whom they died for; namely our safety and protection of our way of life.

The American Way as I understand it is to honor and respect each other. As our Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We as Americans in 2020 sometimes have differing views of these rights.

These differences are being played out on our television screens as our citizens debate the necessity of wearing masks in the time of a virus without a cure. Debates about reopening America have grown more vitriolic than I would prefer.

No matter what side of that debate you stand on, someone died to protect your ability and freedom to share your view. Similarly, they died to allow me the freedom to write this column and print it in mass without fear of retribution.

In spite of these differences, our version of democracy is to have peaceful transitions of power following our elections. Specifically, when we as a people elect a new president, we also elect a new Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces. These individuals are the ones who

These individuals are the ones who decide where to send our troops. For the past week I’ve been re-reading The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. It’s a great look into the behind the scene relationships past presidents have had with each other.

One of the presidents detailed is Dwight Eisenhower, who before his time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue served as Supreme Allied Commander during World War II.

Eisenhower has long been one of my favorite presidents. He knew better than most about sacrifice in the name service to one’s country.

A pair of sections from his speech on the 100 th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg summed up my thinking: “On this day of commemoration,

“On this day of commemoration, Lincoln still asks of each of us, as clearly as he did of those who heard his words a century ago, to give that increased devotion to the cause for which soldiers in all our wars have given the last full measure of devotion,” Eisenhower asked.

“Our answer, the only worthy one we can render to the memory of the great emancipator, is ever to defend, protect and pass on unblemished, to coming generations the heritage - the trust - that Abraham Lincoln, and all the ghostly legions of patriots of the past, with unflinching faith in their God, have bequeathed to us - a nation free, with liberty, dignity, and justice for all.”