Memorial Day is popularly recognized as our national holiday for remembering those who were killed in wars.
As Barack Obama said the other day, it's a time to "pay tribute to our fallen heroes; and to remember the servicemen and women who cannot be with us this year because they are standing post far from home." He acknowledged that we have often "failed to give them the support they need" and promised that we are now "building a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs with the largest single-year funding increase in three decades." Certainly veterans need better services and better access to them.
Some right-wing bloggers have been complaining about the President's confusion of Memorial day and Veterans day, but it seems reasonable to consider the larger context of what is being honored. We would not be remembering dead soldiers if they hadn't once been live soldiers.
We would also not be remembering so many dead soldiers if more of them had followed the model of Ehren Watada, the first commisioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. Last week he won a legal victory when the Justice Department dropped efforts to retry him after his court martial ended in a mistrial. But the Army still wants to punish him for declaring the Iraq war illegal and immoral, and for having the courage to call out "the deception . . . used to initiate and process this war."