Along with the barbeques and other gatherings this weekend – which do have their value – it's good to take some moments to reflect on the purpose of the day.
As usual, PBS has been doing a nice job for Memorial Day weekend, showing a large number of short documentaries on war, veterans, PTSD, and the general difficulties of coming home. The historical docs have been mostly on World War II, with a significant number focusing on the "Easy" Company made famous by Band of Brothers. The pieces have been decent to excellent, but my few mild criticisms are that the Band of Brothers material can drift a bit toward hagiography (the music especially tends to be schmaltzy) and I wish there could be slightly more variety overall. It's not surprising that shows relying heavily on talking head interviews would focus on WWII veterans, but I do wish there was a way to work in more on other conflicts, such as World War I, perhaps the Vietnam War, and the conflict that lead to the creation of Memorial Day, the American Civil War. A short doc on WWII medics was interesting, though, and I appreciated the pieces on recent veterans, homecoming struggles and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The annual Memorial Day Concert will be broadcast later tonight, and I was impressed that last year, it featured a moving segment on military suicide, which has been a serious problem. "Supporting the troops" can be mere lip service, and actually giving someone help is far more important. Whether it's the recent VA scandals or related issues going back over a decade (problems at Walter Reed or reluctance to acknowledge PTSD), that aid hasn't always been given.
Finally, it's also a good day to reflect on the United States' current and recent conflicts, why American military personnel were or are still there, what should be done next, and on what timetable. As Senator Bernie Sanders said this past week, "If you think it's too expensive to take care of veterans, then don't send them to war."
If you wrote a piece for the day, feel free to link it in the comments.
Update: Yet again, the National Memorial Day Concert featured actors performing the stories of guests in the audience, and I found these sections the most powerful. (It's a smart idea in that non-performers can become extremely nervous in such situations, and both actors embraced their counterparts after their segments.) To highlight the plight of war injuries, Gary Sinise performed the story of quadruple amputee John Peck, who understandably went through a very rough patch. To highlight support networks for family members of the fallen, Dianne Wiest movingly performed the story of Ruth Stonesifer, whose son Kristofor was killed. (Ruth is the current head of America Gold Star Mothers.)
(I'll continue to update this as needed.)
Digby has a piece on Arlington West in Santa Monica.