added on May 31, 2010
To me Memorial Day is just like every other day, and it is different.
As people continue to fight and die for what they feel is right; for their ideals, for their freedom, for their land, and for their families I am painfully aware of their sacrifices and their loss. Even though I am American I try to remember “a soldier is a soldier” no matter what uniform they wear. I would bring an end to it where possible but mankind just has not given me the authority to do so. It should have, but it has not. We still fight for so many reasons, many of these conflicts, real and imagined, have been going on for centuries.
Many members of my family, on both sides of my family, have risked and given their lives for the sake of freedom, survival, ideals, and their way of life.
Today, the one person who is foremost in my mind is Cousin Bobby. Robert Leon Rosen served in WW II and in Korea. He passed away due to illness he contracted on the Korean peninsula in 1970. He was buried at the Los Angeles National Cemetery when I was about six and a half years old. I have gone there alone on occasion to remember him and all the others who gave their life for America.
I remember the first time I went with my family. My Dad, who passed away just last year, had taken me aside. He was very close to his cousin and he wanted to talk to me about what Bobby meant to him. In what was by far the most solemn and emotional moment I remember about my Dad up until that time, he made me promise him I would never enlist. In the winter of 1970, beside my cousin’s freshly covered grave and so many other veterans, I promised my Dad I would never enlist.
This event had an enormous impact on me. I remember my Dad telling me that the Army would not care about me as they did not care about Bobby and the rest of my family that had served America.
Ironically, when I brought this up to my Dad just a few years ago he told me he didn’t remember this promise he told me to make. I tried to remind him about other events that connected back to that day. Looking back, I wonder sometimes how often my Dad told me something if just to get me to leave him alone. He changed his mind so often, especially as he got older, I seriously doubt the veracity of many of the things he said.
When I reached the age of eighteen I signed up for Selective Service, most importantly because it was the law. I also never forgot, that I said that “we” had to go to war with Ruhollah Khomeini because that is precisely what God had shown me just a few months before. I knew many people would die but not how many. I was willing to put myself in harm’s way if necessary; I did not assume I was exempt. I did not think a “Messiah exception” whatever that might be, applied in this case.
As I got older I came to respect men and women in uniform and understood freedom is not free. All the rights and freedoms we cherish in this country come at a price. Even though it might seem to citizens in this country that we have been sent near and far to defend this country in an arbitrary fashion, it is the unfortunate reality that people in this world live in very different circumstances and there are always threats. The big question has been where is the line between offense and defense.
Why do we keep fighting? Because we keep provoking each other. Every last person killed must be avenged first. This cycle of violence will never end until we can figure out a way beyond it. I think about what I said to Chris Wallace when he found me at the Venice Circle; “We’re like rats on a ship. We weren’t meant to live like this.” If there was a way to teach people to not provoke each other constantly then we would find a way out of this cycle. I am not sure, despite the access to technology and knowledge that could solve this persistent problem, that we will ever get out of this spiral.
There are just too many people that profit from conflict.
Solve that one for me, if you can.