We set aside just one day in the year to honor the service of the nation's soldiers, sailors, pilots and Marines, and all we are asked to do is remember. Now that we may be on the cusp of another war, political debate may obscure what military conflict really means. Just or unjust, necessary or feckless, democratic or imperial, war is the sacrifice of young lives -- a fact that sometimes seems to be forgotten in the calculations of geopolitics.
The reality of war is the subject of a unique radio documentary airing on NPR (in New York City, it will air tonight at 8 pm on WNYC, the NPR affiliate). "The Vietnam Tapes of Lance Corporal Michael A. Baronowski" is a series of audio letters made on a reel-to-reel recorder in 1966 by a 19-year-old Marine who wanted to work in radio. (The documentary is also available for download on RealPlayer.)
My father, an Army veteran who spent four hard years in the Pacific during World War II, turned 90 last Wednesday. He never spoke much about the war when I was growing up, but in later years he started wearing the "ruptured duck" pin on his lapel, as a silent retort to those who questioned the patriotism of liberals like him. Today I salute him along with all the men and women who have served. They earned all of the attention, remembrance and care that we can give them.
[9:25 a.m. PST, Nov. 11, 2002]