Memorial Day: Last Full Measure of Devotion


Women did it again. The annual Memorial Day tradition of placing flowers on graves of fallen soldiers was begun by women in the South after the Civil War. Who knew?

Who now remembers that it was originally Decoration Day? Or that it is a day to decorate the graves of soldiers who fought for a better future.

Memorial Day is a great deal many things; a federal holiday, the unofficial beginning of summer, maybe a parade, some speeches, or more likely a picnic, shopping for sales or cleaning out the garage. I'm fine with that, but let us pause to consider deeply just what exactly it means to go to war.

I adore having three-day weekends. Yet, I wish all school children knew what this day is for. Any family who has lost someone recently in our current endless wars, or still have family who served in Vietnam or Korea who suffer with lasting injuries, both mental and physical -- will honor this day with sadness. We all need to think about that.

So few Americans actually fight our wars, but we all pay for it. Our federal spending is bloated with a new budget item: a slush fund. You might have a personal fund for a trip, a new car or even a new roof, but this is the complete opposite of that. This slush fund would be akin to refusing to feed your children so that you can spend that money on a new private jet.

This extravagant slush fund is for more war. It is not constrained by the budget caps that are forcing austerity and budget cuts for all other programs. And the Pentagon has been provided with billions of dollars in this war slush fund. The end result is that money is flowing unchecked for weapons and war, but essential investments such as education, food stamps, the child tax credit, the mortgage deduction, the Earned Income Tax Credit, job training, infrastructure, scientific research, medical research, veterans' health care, child care are all cut.

Please note that while the slush fund buys the weapons of war, it does not provide care for our veterans or for the families of our military serving in the field. More money for weapons of war will not fix our bridges, roads, and railroads. Spending on waging war all over the world in skirmishes and conflicts that seem to have no end will not cure cancer or Ebola. The dying middle class will fall further into the working poor without assistance for education, job training, scholarship money or student aid, child care, etc. It feels maniacal. It is most certainly dangerous.

Congress is not putting the people's best interests first. Each legislator comes to the Capitol to represent their constituents. Congress is betraying their constituents by moving more and more money into this slush fund, away from where it needs to be.

Despite all this, we the people are not putting up a stink. All those who have died in military service have given their all to protect our security and our future; let us all think about who they were and what they lost. And then call Congress to invest in this great nation they gave their lives for, we women, we men, we the people owe them that much.

Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address, delivered during that same war which would give rise to Memorial Day:

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.

We want our enduring legacy to be the great people of this fine nation; not a legacy of weaponry and lives lost to fiscal chicanery.