A defense of Memorial Day celebrations

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:46 p.m. CST, Monday, February 2, 2009

On the morning after Memorial Day, I joined my regular Tuesday morning gathering of evil right-wing conservatives for coffee, breakfast and conversation. One of my compadres brought with him a pamphlet produced and distributed by Mid-Missouri Peaceworks titled “War is not a game,” a sentiment understood and concurred with by some ninety-nine-and-nine-tenths of the public — consequently, where is the need to reiterate?

In fact, I have yet to meet anyone who has served in combat or been affected by it in any way who considers it fun and games. Having served for the major part of my adult life as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, sometimes referred to as the nation’s 911 force, and being closely associated with members of the other armed forces, I guarantee unconditionally that we prefer to be an instrument of peace through deterrence in strength. However, be aware that our warriors stand trained and ready to project that strength in defense of liberty by whatever means necessary.

In reading and evaluating this pamphlet, though, one must view our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms with new respect. The freedom of speech clause contained in the First Amendment is absolute in that rumor, innuendo and even outright lies may exist side by side with or replace truth in its entirety. The speaker or author may therefore utter or otherwise distribute a message totally without accountability or without taking responsibility for the truth of the matter stated or without concern for the resulting consequences.

As an example, the “War is not a game” handout states as fact that the Salute to Veterans organization “came to town” with the intent to conduct militarized parades, celebrate instruments of death, promote militarism and serve as a recruitment tool for the military. Perhaps the Peaceworks leadership is sincere in these beliefs and has been successful in deluding its naive and/or malleable followers with this illusion — but I say, in the inimitable retort of MASH’s Colonel Potter, “horse hockey!”

As one who has served the Salute to Veterans for 14 years, 12 of them as the Memorial Day Parade boss, I find these observations to be not only without merit but also insulting. The entire operation, beginning with the air show and ending with the parade and courthouse ceremony, is accomplished by a host of dedicated volunteers — all of whom, from top to bottom, from Mary Posner to my grandsons who distribute American flags — have but one goal,and that is to honor and remember those who gave all that we might remain free.

Personally, I am at a loss to understand the utter antipathy of this handful of people toward a non-profit entity that exists only to honor and respect not only those who have perished but also all living veterans and those now serving. The thousands of hours of unpaid sacrifice by so many unselfish volunteers should be admired rather than ridiculed and derided. Perhaps the activities and displays do attract recruits to our all volunteer armed forces, but is military service not an honorable and necessary profession?

Nevertheless, the peace activists have exercised their inalienable right to protest — they mounted their platform and spoke their piece freely without imposition of restraint. The public response was an eloquent repudiation of that message as the dissenters were outnumbered by a ratio of at least a thousand to one at the air show and by a larger margin at the parade. Divergent opinions are tolerated; however, the people see through this facade of self-serving nonsense — it is a pity the courts are not so observant.

It is not my intent to defend war, inasmuch as it is indeed an abomination so horrible that those who have never experienced it cannot begin to imagine its destruction and carnage. Nevertheless, those who would beat their swords into plowshares rather than provide our armed forces with the latest in weapons systems, logistics, training and equipment in the unrealistic belief that we can turn our enemies with love and forgiveness are the epitome of naivete.

I have enjoyed good rapport with the Mid-Missouri Veterans for Peace — I admire their respectful participation in the parade and Peaceworks’ right to advertise is not disputed. But to describe those who join the military as mere “cannon fodder” makes this veteran’s blood boil. Perhaps they have forgotten that this “cannon fodder” is the shield behind which they are free to dissent and criticize.

J. Karl Miller of Columbia retired as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. E-mail him at

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Nicole Kesil June 3, 2008 | 9:45 p.m.

I have not served equal to your rank and years of service. But when I am confronted with the likes of so called " Peace Activists" even though I know they have freedom of speech only because of brave men and women in the military. I have a problem not lashing out at them. Some Countries would cut their tounges out!

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