When the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred my father was 31 years old and an sculptor living in New York City. He had a wife and three children. His older brothers had lucrative businesses and families of their own. Without fault, they all volunteered and went to war. That is, all except my father. He was not a pacifist nor a concientious objector, mores the pity. When he tried to enlist, he was denied by all branches of the military. He tried the Red Cross. They wouldn't have him either. Partially deaf from birth, he was medically unfit to serve. Despite that he never really discussed this part of his life, I know that he was deeply upset that he could not serve. Instead, he turned to farming as a way to contribute to the war effort, a decision that radically altered his life, the lives of his wife and children, and ultimately my mother's and brought my life into a possbility. He moved, alone, to Arizona. I'm not sure where his wife and children lived for the duration. He apprenticed himself at a farm to learn the ropes, so to speak. After the war he became a cattle rancher and ultimately left his heart on a ranch in southern Arizona when we left in 1977.
On this Memorial Day, I don't really have anyone to memorialize. I have no immediate family members who lost their lives as members of the military, during war. My uncles came through World War II relatively unscathed. One of my cousins disappeared during the Korean War. He was apparently there as an "observer" and went on a joyride with an Air Force pilot friend in an Air Force plane. And "disappeared." I have my doubts as to what really happened. But I don't suppose we'll ever know. I'm not sure why my half-brother didn't go to Vietnam, he must have gotten a higher education deferral or whatever it was called at the time.
Of course my question is- what has changed? I don't see any of my family members, even those who are not ethically opposed to war, signing up to fight in Iraq or Afganistan. What's different between now and World War II? This is mostly a rhetorical question that I already think I know the answer to. But after all, we were attacked on September 11. Of course, there was much talk of young men and women wanting to join up immediately after. But less so people my dad's age with families, etc. And once we went to war on Iraq no one seems to be rushing to the recruitment offices in defense of our freedom and way of life. Maybe it's because many people don't actually believe our freedom is all that at risk. Well, at least from those outside our own government.
I respect the decisions made by my father and his brothers. But I also respect the decisions – made for a grand variety of reasons – made by the men and women of today to not go to war. And while it pains me, I will try to respect the decisions of those who have chosen to go to war. But I do not respect leaders who have made the decision to make war in the first place. At least here, today.