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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

The day to remember

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 08:46 am

POST-MEMORIAL DAY READING LIST

Vox chooses Memorial Day, of all days, to dump on the Marines: "The Marine Corps has a toxic masculinity problem":

That may be what is at the core of the women-in-infantry debate among Marine ranks: the identity crisis of a historically macho club now being forced to let in women.

Now that the Marine Corps must allow women to serve in combat roles — and is putting out recruiting commercials highlighting that fact — it tears at the social fabric of the service. That has led many to act out, some anonymously, online.

Well, I think whenever we're in danger, most people would be awfully glad to have those toxically masculine Marines between us and the bad guys.

*****

From "The numbers to know on Memorial Day," we get these alarming numbers:

 About 20 veterans a day commit suicide, per the Veterans Administration: “In 2014, the latest year available, more than 7,400 veterans took their own lives, accounting for 18% of all suicides in America. Veterans make up less than 9% of the U.S. population.”

I tend to take such dire reporting with a grain of salt. The same kind of alarming numbers get cited periodically but don't hold up on further examination. You can't just compare veteran suicides with population-at-large suicides. You have to compare cohort to cohort — people in the same age categories. What is the percentage of 20-something veterans who commit suicide, for example, compared with the number of 20-something suicides in the general population?

And that "20 veterans a day' statistic is especially misleading (it is usually reported as 22, from a study done in early 2013):

 As a group, veterans are old. Military service being far rarer than it was in the days of the draft, more than 91% of the nation's 22 million veterans are at least 35 years old, and the overwhelming majority did not serve in the post-9/11 era.

About 72% of veterans are at least 50. It is not surprising, then, that the VA found that people in this age group account for 69% of veteran suicides — or more than 15 of the 22 per day.

Many experts believe that the farther a veteran is from military service, the less likely it is that his or her suicide has anything to do with his or her time in uniform. In other words, many older veterans are killing themselves for the same reasons that other civilians in the same age group kill themselves: depression and other mental health problems coupled with difficult life circumstances.

Suicide is a terrible problem, and we need to do far more in prevention efforts than we have done. But let's understand what we are really dealing with and what we are not.

*****

Have we forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day? Kudos to CBS for asking the question, getting the right answer — "yes" — and coming up with a plausible explanation:

“It's a fun holiday for people: 'Let's party.' It's an extra day off from work,” said Carol Resh, 61, whose son, Army Capt. Mark Resh, was killed in Iraq a decade ago. “It's not that they're doing it out of malice. It just hasn't affected them.”

Veterans groups say a growing military-civilian disconnect contributes to a feeling that Memorial Day has been overshadowed. More than 12 percent of the U.S. population served in the armed forces during World War II. That's down to less than one-half of a percent today, guaranteeing more Americans aren't personally acquainted with a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

Certainly the answer isn't to reinstate the draft, the ending of which more than 40 years ago contributed to the great disconnect. But veterans could do more outreach, and non-veterans could take more of an interest than just a once-a-year ritual "thanks for you sacrifice." (Yeah, yeah, I know, big talk.)

Not that there is a total disconnect. When the parks department tried to give a university a lot of control over Memorial Park for a track facility, neighbors' uproar over the disrespect of War War I vets the park was dedicated to forced cancellation of the plans.

*****

On this Memorial Day we were unmaking America. Americans today hate their political opponents to much, writes, David French, that they're willing to "reflexively defend gadflies, con men, and even thugs on their own side rather than concede an inch to their ideological foes." What we lack, he says, is context:

Then, in 2007, I went to Iraq, and I saw “jihadists overseas.” They massacred entire villages. They cut the heads off their enemies, filmed the executions, and celebrated their kills like fans at a soccer game. They blew themselves up outside restaurants, and then, when first responders raced in to save the wounded, they'd send in another bomber, just to make people suffer more. They raped women to turn them into suicide bombers, and they shot babies in the face to shock families into submission.

That's what you call "perspective."

Memorial Day should remind us, he believes, "in the long row of tombstones marking the graves of Americans from every race, creed, and religion — that we remain in this thing together, and even as we use strong words and speak with deep conviction, we will, at the very least, seek to understand opposing views and, always, defend for others rights that we would like to exercise ourselves . . . When it comes to our national future, we are the problem. We are unmaking the nation that our forefathers made."

 
Finally, The Washington Times reminds us in a Memorial Day editorial that the most fitting tribute we can make for those who have fallen in our defense is a lasting peace ensured by a strong military:

What we do with this peace — whether we preserve it and defend it, or whether we lose it and let it slip away — will be the measure of our worthiness of the spirit and sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands who gave their lives in two World Wars, Korea, and in Vietnam.

I believe that we can be worthy of that challenge, because I believe that for the first time in this century, thanks to the sacrifices of the past and because of our determination to stay strong now and in the future, we can keep the peace they gave their lives to win for us.

Peace is the real and right memorial for those who have died in war. They wanted and they deserve a world in which their brothers and sisters and their children and grandchildren will never have to be called upon, as they were, to fight for peace. Let that be the memorial we seek to build for them, and let us work together — the president, the people, the Congress — to build it in the months and years ahead. 

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