29 May 2011


MEMORIAL DAY. This is one of two days each year (the other being Veterans Day) which finds me reflecting on my time in the military, and on war, and on memories both painful and poignant. Memorial Day has become a time of retail sales, car races, barbeques, and fireworks .... all of which miss the point. The crass commercialization of our holidays leaves me sad. It is a time to honor those of all generations who died in military service to the nation. It is a time to recall that not all casualties are marked by a gravestone. War inflicts a terrible cost in lives lost, innocence lost, sometimes sanity lost. Only those who've been through it understand fully the language of conflict and grief. That does not excuse the rest of us from reaching out to express our gratitude. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times someone has told me "thank you" in the 42 years since I came home from Vietnam .... and still have fingers left over. Most of our society has learned from that particular war, and now honors returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Which does not ease those veterans' burdens entirely, but it's a step in the right direction.

MILITARY WOMEN. Serendipitously, today's Washington Post features an evocative article, Five Myths About Women In Combat. The piece is by Jane Blair, a Marine officer and veteran of the Iraq War. Written with authority and credibility, her views closely parallel my own when it comes to placing gender restrictions on military service. Here are the myths which she addresses --

1. Women are too emotionally fragile for combat.

2. Women are too physically weak for the battlefield.

3. The presence of women causes sexual tension in training and battle.

4. Male troops will become distracted from their missions in order to protect female comrades.

5. Women can't lead men in combat effectively.

Blair does an excellent job of discrediting those myths, and documenting her assertions. Click on the link to learn more.

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