Memorial Day 2015 ➠ Battles Old And New


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Memorial Day 2015 will be another one that falls on the anniversary of the liberation of Monte Cassino, in the battle for Italy in 1944.  It is 71 years since that battle ended in the German forces’ retreat.

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And in 2015, many Americans bear the burden of precognition: the sense that our world’s long history of human conflict is coming back to settle among us – and the civilizational touchstone of World War II, paramount for so many decades in our shared memory, is about to be supplanted by a new paradigm of global disruption.

On Memorial Day, we have the opportunity to ponder how the sacrifices of citizen-soldiers have figured in that terrible drama.  We remember how the lives of generations, across continents, can be affected by the homely events on a single battlefield.  We are impressed anew with the heavy responsibility it is to send our neighbors and children forth to fight.  We are prompted to consider clearly what we think is worth fighting for, as we stand before the headstone-capped divisions of those whose hands we can no longer shake in thanks.

Like all nations, America has a “war history.”  The month of May was chosen for what was originally called Decoration Day, on the 30th, because May 1865 was when the Civil War ended, with the surrender of the Confederate army at Appomattox.  But Americans have been fighting, as they were at Monte Cassino in 1944, in many a May since 1776.

In 1780, Continental troops were fighting the British in the siege of Charleston, and in other battles in South Carolina.  Militiamen were fighting in South Carolina and in western Virginia.  In 1813, the Royal Navy mounted a blockade of the northeastern United States, and on 27 May, U.S. forces launched an ambitious amphibious assault on Fort George, on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, forcing the British to abandon it. More

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