Monday, May 26, 2008

Remembering

[In 2004, I was editor of my local union's newsletter. In the May issue that year I wrote the following editorial, and wanted to share it with all of you on this Memorial Day holiday.]

I love war movies. Most guys do. I mean, how can you resist? There are the Good Guys, led by Our Hero. Then there are the Bad Guys, who are working for the Forces of Evil and who always give Our Hero a reason to be, well, Heroic. Mix in a wide selection of guns, armored vehicles and all the different ways of blowing things up nice and loud, and it’s the next best thing to a Sunday afternoon in the fall watching the Eagles beat up on the Cowboys.

How can anyone with a decent amount of testosterone flowing through their body not get goosebumps when George C. Scott talks about winning a war by “making the other poor son of a bitch die for his country” in Patton? Or pump their fists trying to help Jim Brown drop the grenades down the air shafts and run back to the waiting halftrack in The Dirty Dozen, even though we know he will always wind up dead on the ground? Remember Bill Holden slapping the snot out of Nazi plant Peter Graves in Stalag 17? How about R. Lee Ermey’s unforgettable performance as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket?

War in the movies is like that. Good vs. Evil. Heroes vs. Villains. Allies vs. Axis. In real life, however, it’s not quite that clear-cut. Sure, there will always be the Good Guys and the Bad Guys, but talk to any person from any country in the world that has been involved in any kind of armed conflict and I’ll bet you your paycheck that you won’t find a single person that says that they were one of the Bad Guys.

But this editorial isn’t about the politics of war. It’s not about war movies, either. It’s about the real life people who have to deal with the real life consequences of war. The soldiers. The families. The innocent victims. As you look around the factory today, chances are that your eyes will pass over someone who has been personally touched by the effects of war, whether it be the current conflict in Iraq, Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea, or even World War II.

How many of you reading this have been under fire from enemy guns? Not many, I’d imagine. Have you ever seen a friend die from a land mine explosion? Me either. But how many of you know a family who has had one of their own die or been wounded in combat? How many of you can go to the Wall in Washington, D.C. and recognize a name? How many of you at this very second know someone or know of someone in Iraq? I see a lot more hands going up.

My point is that there are many people, people in our communities, sons and daughters of people that you know, who are willing to put their lives on the line to help ensure the safety of America and Americans. And unfortunately, many of them have made that ultimate sacrifice. And that is what Memorial Day is all about. Remembering that some families have empty places at the dinner table. Remembering that some children will only know their father as a picture on the mantle.

I know that this edition of the Chopper will have gone to press after Memorial Day 2004 has ended. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop remembering the fallen. The Heroes. And thanking them and the families they left behind. And remembering that the work we do here helps to protect our sons and daughters every time they get onto one of our helicopters.