This past Memorial Day weekend was perfect in its blue-sky, cotton-cloud beauty, in its breezes that tamed the almost 90-degree heat in Nashville, and in its opportunities to gather with friends and family. This ushering-in-of-summer weekend, this celebration of all the things like watermelon and burgers and kids running around and fireflies and even fireworks, seemed light-hearted in its easy and breezy fun.
And yet – and yet – this day also carries undertones and overtones of other days, days that were darker, full of other kinds of feelings and memories. This is a day the origins of which are disputed, but no matter where it began, it in some way began as a remembrance of those who died when this country was rent by civil war. Whether begun by Southern women, freedmen, or Northern generals, the day evolved over the years into what it is today: a memorial to those in this country who lost their lives in defending the lives of others.
I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. As a child I read the Cherry Ames: Student Nurse Series enthralled by the tales of bravery involving WWII. As a young teen I read Janet Lambert’s series focusing on the Parrish family, whose parents were military and whose young men aspired to join the service and attend West Point. As I entered college, our country was beginning to face the struggle of Vietnam, and my patriotic ideals began to become mixed up with the war protests that were common in my northeastern college. I was uncertain about what to think about the whole idea of the military. For a time I turned to pacifism, but then I realized that if attacked I could not condone doing nothing.
These confusions continue, but what I know today is that I hold in high esteem those men and women who choose to serve their country by joining one of the services. I am thankful for these men and women, and I hold the memory of those who died in the service of others with gratitude and thanks.
At the same time, I continue to struggle with the need for war, the reality of war. Although I was never a great fan of Dwight David Eisenhower, I have recently come across some things that he said, and they make really good sense.
Eisenhower said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. War settles nothing.”
He also said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
I hope that the words of this old soldier will be heard. At a time when war seems endless, let’s remember that, as Ike said, war settles nothing. In the meantime, we remember, and we are grateful.
About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:
Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.” Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com
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