As a Soldier, I was never a fan of ceremonies, but this is the one that should be given great importance. It is not to say that other Military ceremonies shouldn't. I have a high regard for many of the ceremonies of the Military, but too many have lost their significance.
Perhaps, as a Veteran, I put more value on Memorial Day than I did as a Private, but it was my NCO's as a Private that taught me the meanings, that put an emphasis on the "why's" of the ceremonies, not least of which was Memorial Day. Perhaps, when one has a particular person they remember, Memorial Day is more important. I don't share those names with the public. They are for me to remember.
So, it saddened me to watch this ceremony, which included the families of the fallen, because few seemed to have put much thought or weight into the meaning of it. It seemed they were going through the motions, but not the meaning. This is a leadership issue. It is the leader's responsibility to teach the Troops why we do the things we do. The Leadership seemed more concerned with the picture before the ceremony than the ceremony they used as an excuse to take the picture. I do not expect this is a military wide problem, but I was particularly disturbed with the attitudes of leadership at multiple levels.
It is at times like this that I envy the Marine Corps, who remember their traditions, history, and culture much more than do the other services. There were Marines at the ceremony, and I suspect they were less than impressed with it.
After 10 years of war, most leaders know someone who has fallen. Perhaps, these leaders do not. It was a TRADOC post, and "senior" personnel had fewer service and combat stripes than one would expect of their rank. The conversations I overheard had nothing to do with the meaning of the ceremony. Some focused on what they would do with their extra day off while others focused on business of the post.
This Memorial Day, I remember those that have sacrificed all for Freedom and mourn an Army in decline, overtasked, and facing the cuts of 49,000 Troops and another $100 Billion, an Army too tired to even properly remember their fallen brothers.
On this Memorial Day, I remember that it began in the South, secretly, by Widows who somberly remembered their loved ones who fought for the side that lost. On this Memorial Day, I am grateful that Country Stars like Toby Keith still remember, even if politicians can still forget to pay lipservice. On this Memorial Day, I remember my brothers, and hope for a day when fewer think of it as a day of sales and time off from work.
On this Memorial Day, I hope that those Soldiers I saw will have Leaders at next year's event, which explain to them why this isn't just a long weekend.