November 18, 2019

A Lot of Sad Memories on Memorial Day

I grew up at a time when I was able to see and observe a lot of history. As a young boy, I sat with veterans of World War I who related horror stories about their comrades dying in a godforsaken trench in Europe called the Western Front. Millions of men died, and when the war ended, they thought they had seen the end of all war. Unfortunately, these men had sons that would die in miserable places in the world like Iwo Jima, Tarawa, and the Ardennes forest. The Japanese wanted oil and rubber and the Germans wanted land so the invasion of Poland and Pearl Harbor started World War II. I listened again as a high school student to stories of horror and devastation as these veterans told about death and destruction that made World War I seem like kids play. They told stories about the Battle of the Bulge, Normandy, Okinawa, and seeing places like Dachau and Auschwitz that made them physically sick. World War II resulted in conservatively 54 million people dying.

As time went on, America continued to be involved in places like Korea and Vietnam and the number of dead Americans continued to mount. Our cemeteries continued to grow. Our wars now seem to solve nothing and end with the cessation of hostilities but no resolution of the issues at hand. We have 28,000 American soldiers still in Korea on a line from a map called the 38th parallel and many people still are not sure if the Gulf of Tonkin really ever happened. We build memorials to the soldiers that died in Korea and we have a wall with 56,000 names on it in Washington D.C. as a memorial of our struggle in Vietnam.

Our ships now circle North Korea in the Sea of Japan and we have aircraft carriers sailing around the Middle East in anticipation of some type of conflict that will surely result eventually in a war of some type. We hope and pray that the issues that we are willing to have our soldiers die for are worth it. We hope and pray that the North Koreans will not shoot a misdirected missile that was destined for the ocean into a city in Japan or South Korea.

I always think that Memorial Day is one of the saddest days that we celebrate in America. It started with 625,000 Americans dying in a Civil War and the ongoing death of our soldiers seems to have no end in sight. There are over 400,000 American men and women buried in the Arlington National Cemetery. All we can hope for is that Memorial Day 2017 will find fewer American men and women giving their lives for our freedom.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer
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