This page applauded former President Donald Trump’s move to extricate U.S. Armed Forces from Afghanistan. And we applauded President Joe Biden for making the policy real, with a timeline, to get out of a 20-year war that most Americans questioned why our young men and women were serving there.
A year ago in August, 13 Americans were killed and 15 wounded when a suicide bomb exploded as the U.S. was pulling out of what’s been called one of our “forever wars.” Those Americans were added to the more than 2,500 U.S. military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan.
One thing to say about Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Biden’s policies is that forever came to an end. But the cost was dear, as is any military engagement. We mourn them this weekend, and remember their families who have to bear the pain of their loss. Just as we remember all who died in American uniforms, because they answered the call, as Abraham Lincoln said, and gave “the last full measure of devotion” to their country.
Since the 19th century, a day in late May has been a time of year when Americans — some of them, anyway — take time to put aside all the fuss and bother of daily life and think about something that isn’t easy for most of us to grasp — the willingness of fellow Americans to expose themselves to mortal danger in the service of their country. Their sacrifice is what we must take time to consider and appreciate.
Officially sanctioned ceremonies for remembering the war dead go back at least as far as Homer. And every year since 1868, when a military order came down to place flowers on both the Union and Confederate graves at Arlington.
Americans continue that essential tradition at the crossroads of spring and summer of refusing to forget. What was originally called “Decoration Day” was created, for families to go to cemeteries to clean the graves of their loved ones and plant flowers.
President Barack Obama eulogized those who died in service of their country: “If the fallen could speak to us, what would they say? Would they console us? Perhaps they might say that they were willing to sacrifice all for their country; that while they couldn’t possibly know they would be called to leave this world for another, they were willing to take that chance to save the lives of their brothers and sisters in arms.”
We’re lucky that Shelter Island doesn’t forget. As President George H.W. Bush said one Memorial Day: “Each of the patriots whom we remember on this day was first a beloved son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a spouse, friend and neighbor.”
Come to the Center on Monday, to be with family, friends and neighbors, and to remember.