EDITORIAL: Memorial Day should be what it was intended to be

BY ROBERT MORALES

Our country has a rich military history, dating back to the Revolutionary War.  Our military is the envy of the world because of its unmatched resources, the best equipment and technology in the world, and most important, the gallant men and women who serve in the various branches of the armed forces: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

As a reminder, we take one day out of the year – Memorial Day – to honor those who have served, and yes, died while on active duty. From 1941 to 1945, it is estimated that about one million American servicemen died in World War II. This was a war that was for all intents and purposes inevitable because of the Axis powers that had gotten out of control (Germany, Italy, Japan). 

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt uttered perhaps some of the most famous presidential words, “a date that will live in infamy.” Mr. Roosevelt delivered the speech to a joint session of Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, one day after the attack.
Here is the entire speech:
“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.”

Indeed, the U.S. has been involved in many conflicts since WWII, perhaps more notably Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, but we can’t forget Korea.
 
The 1960s were a turbulent time and the country had no appetite for a growing military presence in an unknown Asian country, thousands of deaths, and no timeline to end the war.  Perhaps more than anything else, this was the biggest thorn in President Johnson’s side, and he was not able to (or did not want to) stop the war. 

That war would not end until the mid-1970s, and regardless of the valiant effort put forth by U.S. forces, the communist government took over Saigon in 1975, and that was the official end of that war.

The longest military engagement of all, Afghanistan, has no clear victory. Instead of dwelling on whether it was wise for the U.S. to invade Iraq or Afghanistan, this much is clear:  Memorial Day is set aside for us to honor and remember every soldier who has fought in a war and died in action.  Let’s be thankful on Memorial Day and praise those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.