Memorial Day… Monday, May 27, 2024

This Memorial Day

By Luke Larson

Earlier this year, I had the great fortune of visiting Normandy with my Dad, a Vietnam-era Veteran.

At the Utah Beach Museum hangs “A Letter to an American” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a French writer most known for his children’s book: The Little Prince.

The letter reads,

“In regards to the quality of your character, I will always hold the same to be true. It is not in the pursuit of material interest that mothers in the United States gave up their sons. It is not in pursuit of material interests that these boys accepted the risk of death. I know and I will say it again later at home for what spiritual crusade each of you has given himself to the war.

If your soldiers had gone to the war only for the defense of American interests, the message would have emphasized your oil fields and your threatened commercial markets. Instead, it scarcely touched on such subjects …your boys wanted to hear something different.

And what were they told that could motivate them to sacrifice their lives? They were told of hostages hanged in Poland. They were told of prisoners shot in France. They were told a new form of slavery threatened to extinguish a part of humanity. They were not told about themselves, but of others. That gave them a sense of solidarity with all mankind.

The soldiers went to war not to save American citizens, but rather for man himself, respect of mankind, liberty for all men, the greatness of man …”

I was blessed by misfortune to have served in the infantry with many men who died in combat generations later in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet fought for these same ideals. Their memory brings not only a sense of loss, but also a complex struggle to reconcile that loss with the evolving narratives of the conflicts we served in.

Through my frustrations, guilt and sorrow, I strive to find a modicum of solace in believing that sacrifices were not in vain. That their lives, so heroically given, serve as a poignant reminder of the real cost of war urging us all, but especially our leaders, to make more informed decisions considering where and when to fight.

On Memorial Day let’s remember them and their stories, lest we forget …