By U. S. Army Chaplain and PhD Nathan Graeser
One year ago, I sat in a large field on Camp Bondsteel in what used to be Serbia, but now considered south Kosovo. My infantry brigade had deployed there as part of a NATO alliance. Most days were filled with counselings, services and briefings, but this day was different.
On this exact day last year, I stood behind 1,000 soldiers preparing to honor SSG Conrad, a member of our medical team, who died a few days before. He never made it home. One year later, I’m home honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
We live in a strange time in American history. Less than half a percent of the population serves in the military today. And yet, we have been engaged in the longest wars in American history with forces on nearly every continent. Today, most people do not even know someone who served, let alone actually grieve someone they lost in war. This Memorial Day, I am reminded that honoring the sacrifices of men and women requires knowing them. Although the general public opinion has favored the military (nearly 72% of Americans had a “great deal of faith” in the military), we are losing our connection to the costs of war and the Americans that fight them.
This Memorial Day, lets share in the burden, not just remembering those we lost, but those who lived. This week, find a friend or family member who served and invite them to dinner, buy them a drink or maybe just hear their story. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear about the good ones, the ones most of us never knew, the ones who never made it home.