As we prepare to lift up our flags, adorn grave markers with flowers and remember those who have died for our freedom, may we also reflect upon the collective toll war has had upon our nation and not forget that with every soul lost, a treasured piece of our national mosaic goes missing.
We have fought many a good fight, but there have been occasions when the cause seemed blurred, or we lost sight of the original aim of a military campaign. We as a nation are not alone in balancing our support for the troops while working through the ethics of past questionable missions.
On May 9, President Vladimir Putin and Russia celebrated Victory Day. Putin gave a rousing short speech, memorializing the Red Army that helped defeat Nazi Germany 68 years ago. Victory Day is arguably Russia’s most celebrated secular holiday, honoring the nation’s military history and noting the civilian losses of World War II while showing off the country's modern arsenal. “We will always remember that it was Russia, the Soviet Union, that ruined the misanthropic, bloody, arrogant plans of the fascists,” Putin told the 11,000 servicemen standing in tight formation on the Red Square.
Will Russia, or then the Soviet Union, “always remember” what it did in 1932? Soviet leader Josef Stalin unleashed genocide in the little recognized “Ukrainian Holocaust.” He mobilized 25,000 troops from Moscow to force 10 million Ukrainian peasants into collective farms. Stalin, determined to crush Ukraine’s growing spirit of nationalism, force-starved an entire nation.
Grain, silage, farm animals, and machinery were confiscated from Ukraine's farms, but those efforts were only slowly moving Ukraine to its national knees. To destroy further Ukrainian resistance, 10,000 Ukrainians were shot weekly. Eighty percent of all Ukrainian intellectuals were executed. Finally the campaign to mass starve Ukraine was accomplishing its goal and Ukrainians were compelled to eat their pets, boots and belts, plus bark and roots even infant children. Between seven and nine million died and twenty-five percent of the entire population was exterminated.
Stalin even told Winston Churchill he liquidated 10 million peasants during the 1930s, and that does not count the executions in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the massacres of Cossacks and Volga Germans to bring the death count closer to 40 million. This was all achieved through the military muscle of the Red Army and the henchmen who were given orders directly. Will Russia always remember this?
Will we always remember our own blood shedding? It is too easy to look at the atrocities committed by another nation and not measure our own blood spilt at Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg. The Civil War cost us 620,000 souls with many more severely injured.
The controversial Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War were the first military campaigns that invaded our living rooms through nightly newscasts, and changed America’s appetite for war. Today, cable news makes sure that little is missed in battle except perhaps a covert operation or two, which only later surfaces as dramatic bestsellers. An errant drone mission in Pakistan is broadcasted repeatedly, as it should.
Memorial Day brings out the best of American freedom. Hardcore patriots and enraged protestors will be sure that their celebrations and demonstrations find their way into the 24 hour news cycle.
America reserves a day to remember the sacrifices made by brave men and women, who have fought and continually fight for freedom, and America reserves the right for all to champion or criticize its previous wars and current military global presence.
May we of faith pray not only for those in all our armed services, but may we also pray for clarity and wisdom for our national leaders as our country continues to do battle with forces of evil. May we always remember our previous lessons on the battleground, for it is too easy to repay evil with evil. Many a nation has demonstrated that with the sword. The Bible reminds us, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”
And to our wounded warriors and to the families who have lost their children to war, may our nation thank you and always remember your great sacrifice.