Very good question.
And yet, we all have given and lost in one way or another. War that defines our youth also defines our senior years…if not physically, emotionally. And of course, is there a parent who thinks the loss of her/his child is worth it? It’s one thing to be proud of the effort…quite another to deal with the finality of death. It’s so complicated as to be inexplicable and yet … it goes on…and will go on…with new reasons to risk our children’s lives arising all the time. Like it always has.
All it takes to throw me into hours of contemplation is a visit to the graveyards where our ancestors and peers and children rest. The white stones of men who died during the Civil War cover acres of ground in multiple states …like the Hollywood Cemetary in Richmond, Virginia, where a giant rock pyramid casts its shadow over thousands of Confederate graves…or the rows of white stones at Gettysburg where those who died for the Union lie. Or the graves in Europe reminding us of Americans who fought in World War 1 …and those who fought in World War 2. And the walls in DC reminding us of those who fought and died in Korea…and the horrific losses in Vietnam.
And all these graveyards and monuments make me remember not just Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, but the thought behind them…that what we have built over the centuries is so special, so cherished…and way too costly to abandon now. Of course, Lincoln said it better:
“…The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I honor those who fought in our many wars…even the ones I don’t understand or agree with…and yet, the prospect of more blood always gives me pause. Was Korea worth it? Vietnam? Iraq? Afghanistan? Do we know yet? Will we ever? We do know our brothers and sisters who fought these wars and will fight new ones are exceptional …and risking the exceptional among us is a frightening thing.
Like the many other difficult decisions in our lives—from war to uneasy peace, from what is a sin and what is a duty, we must live with the consequences whether it’s a win or a loss…worth it or not, because those who go forward in our name are definitely worth it.