Memorial Day: We Honor the Dead by How We Live

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” 
— Dwight D. Eisenhower

I spent years donning the uniform of an American soldier.

And I have spent more years sending my husband off to war in the uniform of an American soldier.

I hate watching him pack his bags.

When he stands framed in the wavy leaded glass of our front door, an olive drab duffel bag in each strong, tanned hand—well, my heart cracks a little under the weight of it. This is the image I carry with me, his broad back filling our doorway. Walking away.

And all the time wondering if he will walk through it again.

We have buried our friends. Some scattered across foreign sands, some casualties of war coming long after the battle is over.

My husband serves still, and I believe honorably so. But, oh, we are weary of waging war. And so I will spend all the years I have ahead waging peace so that no others will die.

We lean forward at home and abroad by serving the poor, the marginalized and the ones who don’t look or act like us. We remake our world by listening to the voices speaking different languages of life and love and loss.

We go back to the places we wage war, and we choose peace.  

Sixteen years ago, over 100 U.S. soldiers died fighting two separate battles in the city of Fallujah. Some would call it a victory.

My husband and I sat around the table some time after this, at a nondescript chain restaurant with two medics who survived the thick of combat in Fallujah during April 2004. I listened for hours over cheap baskets of wings, hearing their stories of the dead and dying. The tears they come hot and fast for us all with the weight of so much grief.

Have I mentioned we are weary of war?

Another number, less noted perhaps, is the 1,500 civilians estimated to have lost their lives in 2004 in the battles for the city. A people who are weary of war.

I believe we honor the dead by how we live.

And now years later, places like Fallujah and Aleppo and Gaza are recovering from the latest waves of war. The violence has destroyed countless homes and killed thousands of innocent people. After so many cycles of violence, many wonder what comes next.

And we—we who have waged war—can now wage peace alongside our friends in Iraq and other war-torn parts of the world. We can honor the sacrifices made years ago by choosing hope, bravery, and peace now.

Preemptive love compels us to the frontlines for those who have been oppressed by terror. When we help fast, and when we stay and give help that lasts, we can begin to end war.

How will you spend this Memorial Day? How will you honor the dead?

We wage peace so that no others may die.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2016. It has been lightly updated before republishing.