I am danger of turning into one of those retired school teachers who scold people for using "verbal" when they mean "oral."
Today, I was standing in line behind a guy with dreadlocks that Bob Marley would have envied. As he finished his transaction, he turned to me and asked: "Are you a veteran? Did you serve?" When I said I had, he nodded deferentially and said: "Thank you, man. I never did. I wish I had. But thank you."
I assume he took the time to show his gratitude because today is Memorial Day. But the day is not for those of us who served and survived. It is a day for those who made the ultimate sacrifice -- for those who died in their country's military service. The rest of us have Veterans Day on 11 November.
But I did not show my churlish side. I simply thanked him for stopping to wish me well. That type of civility is appreciated whenever it is offered -- especially in these days where every topic tends to be reduced to a cultural battle.
And this essay may not be an exception. Every time I write about veterans, at least one or two commenters feel compelled to deride the service of those who died by characterizing their deaths as senseless because the wars in which they fought were immoral.
That, of course, is a logical categorical error. The military personnel who go to war do not make the country's policy. They simply obey the orders given to them by the policymakers the American people elect. Soldiers go where their civilian bosses tell them to go. They may agree or disagree with the policy, but that is not their job.
And some die to protect the American ideals by which we strive to live. Sometimes, we fail to live up to those ideals. But that does not mean the ideals are wrong. We still fight for them.
Last night at the wedding I attended, two guests were introduced from the stage. One was retired from the Navy and had taught high school ROTC courses to the bride. I was the other -- introduced as an Air Force officer. The crowd was made up of Mexican-Americans who loudly honored our military service. A young man sitting at the ROTC instructor's table was entering the Marines this week.
I will tell you more about the wedding later in the week. But today is a day for the slain.
War is a terrible devourer of young lives. And, in almost all ways, war is senseless.
But lives lost in defense of this country are not senseless.
I doubt many of President Biden's speeches will be long-remembered. But he struck the right chord yesterday in Delaware When he said:
And all of us who remain have a duty to renew our commitment to the fundamental values to our nation in their honor — the values that have inspired generation after generation to service and that so many have died to defend.I am certain that the guests at last night's wedding and the man who thanked me at the grocery store would join me in saying amen to that.