A perfect face dressed in crisp blue and white.
A flag, folded to a razors edge, held in white gloved hands.
A widow, a child, eyes downcast in sorrow.
A white stone, one among many, in an unblemished field of green.
These images are everywhere at this time of year.
Holy icons, whether framed upon the mantlepiece, or shared on public media.
Because it is the last Monday in the Month of May, and while we may claim that we are memorializing our war dead, and we may dimly remember a time when we decorated their markers with ribbons and flowers and shared meals and stories among their graves, the reality is that a curious thing happens when our young men and woman in uniform are taken from us while in the performance of their duty.
They stop being people in any meaningful way, which is itself a common function of death. But unlike the rest of us, they ascend, becoming the very archetype of military service.
It is strange, to see a country which many claim is Christian, birthing so many young gods.
But ours is not the first culture to deify its war-dead.
Nor, indeed, shall it be the last.
And lest you mistake my intent, I wish to take nothing away from their sacrifice.
I honor the great service which they have rendered upon us, and I know that each has felt the brush of the raven goddesses wing against his or her cheek. They walk now in a land far from our own, and yet only a heartbeat away. Perhaps they will know peace there. Or it may be that they gather together around some distant campfire, awaiting a battle which is yet to come.
At this time of year, as these idealized images of truth and valor are burnt so brightly into our collective consciousness, I find myself wondering mostly about the company they keep.
Surely, the soldiers of other nations must be there as well, friends and enemies alike, who sacrificed themselves in valiant service to their homelands.
But what about those who didn’t volunteer? What about the draftees?
And what about the children, kidnapped from villages throughout Africa and Southeast Asia, or transferred from Russian orphanages into military training camps?
This is something that is happening right now, as you read this! Kids who should be learning math and spelling, who should be teasing their siblings and driving their parents to distraction, are being stolen from their homes and forced to fight and die in conflicts that most of the folks enjoying their Memorial Day Picnics have never heard of.
I know that some, maybe many, will disagree with me here. Certainly, there are those who believe that he who throws himself upon the grenade has made a greater sacrifice than one who had doom thrust upon them.
Not in my eyes. One volunteered and the other was a victim, but the raven came for them both and if she does not discriminate, why should I?
It is the last Monday in May.
You can keep your stars and your stripes.
You can keep your banners and parades and picnics.
I will honor the war dead in my prayers.
All of them.
Both friends and former enemies alike.
And if there is someone that you have lost, and if it is your habit to speak to them on this day, or any day, maybe you could ask them to look after the children, the youngest gods, frightened and forgotten by a world that let them down.
It would be nice if they had someone to look out for them.